NEW DELHI: An AI-enabled ‘mind-reading’ headset designed by Arnav Kapur, an MIT graduate who grew up in Delhi, has been named as Time’s 100 Best Inventions of 2020.
A postdoctoral student at MIT, the 25-year-old Kapur has made the list in the experimental category for AlterEgo, an AI-enabled headset designed by him, his brother Shreyas and fellow researchers at the MIT Media Lab.
The wearable device can be a boon for those with communication problems such as those with cerebral palsy and ALS by letting them communicate with the computer without saying a word, just by thinking of the instruction in their mind.
Basically, if you want to know if it’s going to rain tomorrow, all you have to do is formulate the question in your mind. Then, the headset’s sensors read the signals from the areas – facial and vocal cord muscles — that would be triggered had you said it out loud, according to a report by Time. Then, the device carries out the action on your laptop. Using a bone conduction speaker, you receive the relevant information. The device has 92% accuracy in terms of being able to understand people.
The idea is that even when we don’t speak out loud, the thoughts we don’t utter are still going through our internal speech system. This means that your tongue still moves ever so slightly even if you don’t say the words out loud. In a video demonstrating the scope of the innovation, Kapur navigates a smart TV, finds out the time, calculates how much he spent at the grocery store all without ever uttering a word. The current system is not commercially available and is being tested in hospital settings for patients with MS and ALS.
“A primary focus of this project is to help support communication for people with speech disorders including conditions like ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) and MS (multiple sclerosis),” reads the overview of the project on MIT’s website. “Beyond that, the system has the potential to seamlessly integrate humans and computers—such that computing, the Internet, and AI would weave into our daily life as a “second self” and augment our cognition and abilities.” An example is that you can play chess with AlterEgo on and instantly become an expert. It has the potential to augment human decision making through machine intelligence.
And for those concerned that this is the first step of machines knowing your every thought, don’t worry. AlterEgo doesn’t read your thoughts, just the commands that you specifically articulate in your head. And because it reads signals based on your facial and vocal cord muscles, it doesn’t have any access to your brain activity in the first place.