Bone conduction device AlterEgo can hear your inner ‘silent’ voice

AlterEgo headset

Bone conduction gradually conquers the world… I think that’s clear now when you read our blog articles. Proof of the quest to conquer the world is the device that some researchers designed and that can hear your inner voice allowing people to silently control devices and to ask questions without raising their voice. The device was given the appropriate name AlterEgo. AlterEgo is in a certain sense able to read your thoughts and to recognize words that you do not speak out loud. To realize this recognition the device uses electrodes which are touching the skin.

Answers and replies via bone conduction

Arnav Kapur, one of the researchers who conducted the research, indicated that they wanted to design a device that combines the human nature with some machine functionalities. The objective is to expand our senses and to create a kind of sixth sense. Kapur himself introduced the device to the world during the Association for Computing Machinery’s Intelligent User Interface conference in Tokyo. The device firmly hangs behind the ear. A second part runs over the jawbone and the chin. At the backside of the plastic device there are 4 electrodes touching the skin. These 4 electrodes receive and recognize neuromuscular signals when a person silently forms words or sentences in his or her head. The artificial intelligence of AlterEgo converts these signals into real words and sentences. These sentences on its turn are transmitted to an internal computer that processes them. Based on the sentences the computer sends an appropriate reply or answer via bone conduction to the inner ear of the user. Bone conduction keeps your ears free and the outside world has no idea what you silently formulate or what is produced as reply or answer by the computer. So in fact AlterEgo creates a quiet communication tool whereby only the user can communicate with the tool.

Bye bye search queries on your smartphone

Pattie Maes from the department of science at MIT explained why AlterEgo could be such an interesting device. Smartphones for sure have their benefits, but they are not always that handy. If we are looking for something, we have to take our smartphone, open an app, type or say something and then wait for the result. Therefore we are not only losing valuable time, but we also lose contact with the outside world and our surroundings. Thanks to the bone conduction device AlterEgo we use the knowledge and services of smartphones, but we avoid their disadvantages.

92% reliability rate

But is this device reliable? The answer is … yes, it is quite reliable. During a test with 10 people who were allowed to use the device for a short time, it turned out that AlterEgo correctly identified 92% of the words and sentences. With 95%, the Google transcription services, using spoken words, are still doing better. However Kapur clearly stated the correctness will improve over time and they also expect a recognition percentage of around 95%. 92% or 95%… we believe these numbers are nevertheless quite impressive.

Kapur and his team are currently working on the AlterEgo enhancement. They want to optimize the technology behind silent voice recognition and they are also looking to systematically expand the number of words that AlterEgo can detect. At this moment in time the bone conduction device can already recognize numbers, play games such as chess, control interfaces and perform many other basic tasks.

Bye bye Siri, Alexa and Google’s Assistant … welcome AlterEgo

With AlterEgo, the team’s ultimate goal is to get rid of the disadvantages of, for example, Siri from Apple, Alexa from Amazon and Google’s Assistant. Thanks to this device, people will be able to communicate and ask questions in silence. The outside world does not always need to know what you are thinking or what you are looking for. It may sound like science fiction, but it is reality. The only drawback is perhaps the wearing comfort. You have to carry the device on your face. Nevertheless many scientists and trend watchers have a strong belief in this bone conduction product. It has many benefits…not only for private persons, but also for industrial use (in noisy spaces) and in the army.

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