AlterEgo, The Intelligence Augmentation Device That Reads Your Mind

Researchers at MIT’s Media Lab are exploring the wonders of Intelligence Augmentation.

We recently came across a wearable that is capable of reading people’s minds. Experimenting with new form factors and interfaces, the Dr Xavier type of device allows the wearer to control devices and ask queries without speaking.

Intelligence Augmentation
MIT’s AlterEgo wearable is able to hear internalised voices and communicate to the wearer through a bone conduction system.

Called AlterEgo, the wearable tech device, designed by researchers at MIT’s Media Lab, can transcribe words that wearers verbalise internally. Simply put, the invention uses electrodes attached to the skin to capture words inside the wearer’s head. “Our idea was: could we have a computing platform that’s more internal, that melds human and machine in some ways, and that feels like an internal extension of our cognition?” said Arnav Kapur, who led the Intelligence Augmentation research of the Silent Computer Interface system at MIT’s Media Lab.

Getting To Know The Silent Computer Interface

Described as “Intelligence Augmentation”, the brain computer interface headset or IA device is worn around the jaw and chin and clipped over the top of the ear to hold it in place. It operates when four electrodes that are under the white plastic device make contact with the wearer’s skin. What follows is that the IA device picks up subtle neuromuscular signals that are triggered when a person verbalises internally. It is these signals that are fed into a computer, and then the computer can then respond to the device using a bone conduction speaker.

“Wouldn’t it be great to communicate with a voice in an environment where you normally wouldn’t be able to?”

With the idea to create an outwardly silent computer interface that only the wearer of the AlterEgo device can speak to and hear, Pattie Maes, a professor of media arts and sciences at MIT told The Guardian, “We basically can’t live without our cell phones, our digital devices. But at the moment, the use of those devices is very disruptive.” She continues, “If I want to look something up that’s relevant to a conversation I’m having, I have to find my phone and type in the passcode and open an app and type in some search keyword, and the whole thing requires that I completely shift attention from my environment and the people that I’m with to the phone itself.”

Silent Computer Interface
“The system’s performance should improve with more training data, which could be collected during its ordinary use.” -Kapur

“Wouldn’t it be great to communicate with a voice in an environment where you normally wouldn’t be able to?” said Thad Starner, a computing professor at Georgia Tech, of the device that can also be used to control primary user interfaces such as the Roku streaming system. The researchers hope that in the future they will make interfacing with Artificial Intelligence assistants such as Google’s Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri be seamless science fiction.

So far, the Silent Computer Interface headset has managed an average of 92% transcription accuracy. This was following a 10-person trial. Apparently, that is several percentage points below the 95%-plus accuracy rate that Google’s voice transcription service. Still, in its infancy, the rather unattractive device, which admittingly is a bit of an eyesore, has a lot of potential, and we look forward to seeing how AlterEgo is going to evolve into a fashionable intelligence augmentation device.

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Founding editor-in-chief & WearableTechStylist of FashNerd.com, Muchaneta has worked in the fashion industry for over 14 years. She is currently one of the leading influencers speaking and writing about the merger of fashion with technology and wearable technology and a regular contributor to digital news sites like Wareable.