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Dept. of Not Sure We Should Go There

Via Rod Dreher:

I'll confess to having a mild Luddite streak, which ranges from indifference to antipathy, where some modern technology is concerned (somehow, I suspect that this will not be altogether surprising to everyone); hence, while I can perceive the benefits of such technology, I harbour ambiguous premonitions of the possible misuses of a mature version of the technology. Regardless, the video clip is fascinating, in a tech-geek sort of way.

Comments (7)

Okay, so somebody explain this to me: He just had this thing around his neck. _How_ was it getting signals from his brain? Some sort of electrodes on the back of his neck or something?

Not sure what to think about it, but I bet it'll take them longer to get it to work very well than they think.

I partially lost the use of my hands nine years ago from pregnancy-induced carpal tunnel syndrome, and it was very painful to type. I got speech recognition software. (Dragon Naturally Speaking) I'm told it's much better now, but it was pretty awful then. It was more or less not worth the trouble, unless I had had a lot more hours to spend training it to recognize my voice. Fortunately, I recovered the normal use of my hands! I mention this because they liken it to speech recognition software.

I'm the sort of person who thinks this is a gag, and that these guys are going to be in jail soon defrauding investors out of a few hundred mil. But then again, NASA did get away with faking the moon landings.

...Ah, ok. There's a secret to every magic trick. At Rod's site a commenter says that this works through "subvocalization". You just talk to yourself, making the same inner movements with your mouth tongue and neck, etc, that you do when you actually speak, but just don't push any air out. It's like ventriloquism with the sound turned down. The device interprets the tiny muscle movements. Like voice recognition, you likely would have to train the machine to recognize you before it would work. Watching the video closely, you can see muscle activity going on. So, it's not mind reading.

Well, for crying out loud! I thought of that possibility but set it aside as unworthy, because they're talking on the video about marketing this to people who can't talk because of illness. They mention Lou Gehrig's Disease, and my first thought was, "I thought people with Lou Gehrig's Disease can usually talk but become paralyzed in other ways. What about people with strokes. They could really use it." And _then_ it occurred to me that people with strokes might use different brain activity to try to talk, so maybe it wouldn't work for the very people who could use it most. And now, if that's true, it turns out that the people who need it most--people who are locked in and can't communicate because of a stroke or something--couldn't use it. Hmmph.

Well, they are very tiny muscular movements, so maybe it would work with stroke victims who were able to recover a bare minimum of capability.

Possible, but I dunno. HOw much easier is it to sub-vocalize than to vocalize, assuming no damage to the vocal apparatus itself? It would probably vary from one patient to the next. If the issue were just one of trouble speaking clearly, then this might be helpful. But I can imagine there would be patients who were conscious but sufficiently paralyzed as not to be able to subvocalize. Just seems like a fairly useless type of technology, but I'd be glad to be proven wrong if it helps the disabled to talk.

Just seems like a fairly useless type of technology

Maybe so, but it won't stop these guys from making a mint. Then again, every time I see/hear people using those ear-piece cell phone devices (I always think of Star Trek when I see them), just walking down the street or standing in line at the grocery, talking away to apparently no one at full volume, it's always, well to say the least, a bit disconcerting. If those folks could have that all important roaming phone conversation in silence, maybe the world would be that much better off.

Like Maximos, I'm a semi-luddite. I'm also next-to-hopelessly-lost without modern technology.

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