Posted on
Isabella Bautista | November 30, 2022

Most humans can speak around 150 words per minute. However, due to conditions such as paralysis, some people are only able to communicate at a rate of 5 words per minute. This is typically achieved with the help of devices stimulated by small movements, restricting their use by those who cannot move at all. Now, a new type of technology has been presented to help paralyzed people talk: a brain implant that “reads” and expresses people’s thoughts.

How does it work?

“Think before you speak” is a common phrase reflecting how people often form sentences in their heads before speaking. With this new device, electrodes placed in the brain pick up on neural impulses associated with these worded thoughts. Then, artificial intelligence programs convert the impulses into their corresponding sounds to form words. 

How has it been used so far?

In addition to forming words directly from neural impulses, the new technology can put together words and sentences letter by letter for those who are used to spelling out their ideas. At the University of California, San Francisco, one subject spelled out phrases such as “I do not want that” and “You have got to be kidding” using words that started with the letter he wanted to say. For instance, he used “alpha” for the letter A and “echo” for the letter E. Using this method, the subject could communicate at a rate of 7 words per minute, a small but groundbreaking improvement from the old technology. The next step is to make these mind-reading interfaces faster, with the hope of one day making them efficient enough to allow the paralyzed to “speak” at 150 words per minute, like many of us can.


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