Key idea: As part of BrainGate, a pioneering global collaboration for restoring communications using brain implants, the team envisioned—and then realized—the ability to restore communications using neural signals from the brain.
Original author and publication date: Shelly Fan (Singularity Hub) – January 31, 2023
Futurizonte Editor’s Note: New technologies translate thoughts into speech. Are we being close to technological telepathy?
From the article:
We speak at a rate of roughly 160 words every minute. That speed is incredibly difficult to achieve for speech brain implants.
Decades in the making, speech implants use tiny electrode arrays inserted into the brain to measure neural activity, with the goal of transforming thoughts into text or sound. They’re invaluable for people who lose their ability to speak due to paralysis, disease, or other injuries. But they’re also incredibly slow, slashing word count per minute nearly ten-fold. Like a slow-loading web page or audio file, the delay can get frustrating for everyday conversations.
A team led by Drs. Krishna Shenoy and Jaimie Henderson at Stanford University is closing that speed gap.
Published on the preprint server bioRxiv, their study helped a 67-year-old woman restore her ability to communicate with the outside world using brain implants at a record-breaking speed. Known as “T12,” the woman gradually lost her speech from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease, which progressively robs the brain’s ability to control muscles in the body. T12 could still vocalize sounds when trying to speak—but the words came out unintelligible.
With her implant, T12’s attempts at speech are now decoded in real time as text on a screen and spoken aloud with a computerized voice, including phrases like “it’s just tough,” or “I enjoy them coming.” The words came fast and furious at 62 per minute, over three times the speed of previous records.
It’s not just a need for speed. The study also tapped into the largest vocabulary library used for speech decoding using an implant—at roughly 125,000 words—in a first demonstration on that scale.
To be clear, although it was a “big breakthrough” and reached “impressive new performance benchmarks” according to experts, the study hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed and the results are limited to the one participant.