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Device Could Someday Translate Thoughts into Speech.

Neuro-engineers from the Zuckerman Institute at Columbia University have developed a new system--known as the vocoder--that translates thought into intelligible and recognizable speech. This discover)' could yield new techniques for computers to communicate directly with the brain and aid those suffering from a variety of diseases and disorders affecting speech, including ALS and stroke.

It has long been known that brain activity patterns appeal' when a person speaks or even imagines speaking, as well as when someone listens or imagines listening to another person.

Efforts to harness these effects to decode brain signals have proven challenging, often focusing on simplistic computer models that analyzed spectrograms--visual representations of sound frequencies.

However, this approach does not produce anything nearing intelligible speech, leading the Columbia team to use a computer algorithm that can synthesize speech after being trained on recordings of people talking.

The team taught the vocoder to interpret brain activity by asking epilepsy patients who already were undergoing brain surgery to listen to sentences spoken by different people, while the researchers measured the patterns of brain activity.

The researchers then recorded the brain signals and asked the same patients to listen to speakers reciting digits between zero and nine and fed the measurements through the vocoder. They then analyzed the sound produced by the vocoder in response to the signals and cleaned them up using neural networks.

The researchers ultimately produced a robotic-sounding voice that recites the sequence of numbers.

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Title Annotation:R&D NEWS: TECH Briefs
Publication:R & D
Date:Apr 1, 2019
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