AlterEgo is an early-stage prototype of wearable headset that allows a user to communicate with machines by verbalising words in head without speaking them loudly.
How it works? User just have to articulate words internally. Then, electrodes pick up neuromuscular signals and send them to AI assistants, services or applications where machine learning system interprets these signals like words and finally the user receives an answer. But not an ordinary answer. It can be execution of the command by the device or even aural words given by bone conduction without speaking them. AlterEgo claims that their product “allows humans to converse in natural language with machines… without disrupting the user’s usual auditory perception, and making the interface closed-loop”.
Arnav Kapur, a graduate student at MIT Media Lab, was the lead researcher of this invention. He said that “Our idea was: Could we have a computing platform that’s more internal, that melds human and machine in some ways and that feels like an internal extension of our own cognition?”
Interestingly, Arnav perceives AlterEgo as antidote to the anxiety concerning AI. He emphasizes that he is aware of the doubts and fears that people have while thinking about AI and he claims that his device will help us rather than replace us. He believes that AlterEgo will save our time and not disrupt our minds. It is meant to improve our relation with electronical devices and make them less involving. Furthermore, AlterEgo aims at helping the ones that have voice disorders.
Examples of usage of AlterEgo include asking about weather, time, date or any information from the phone, advice on how to win chess, summing up the prices of products we are buying, connecting with IoT by for example switching channels on TV, putting the kettle on, turning the light off etc.
There are many nonobvious ways in which this device could be beneficial. Thad Starner, a professor in Georgia Tech’s College of Computing suggest using it in the military where communicating silently is often a must for the success of the operation. More down-to-earth example is ordering an uber while being at the meeting or during the lessons.Sometimes we also need to check infomation discreetly and quickly for example with our lawyer at the hearing.
Tanzeem Choudhury, an associate professor at Cornell University who runs the school’s People-Aware Computing Lab, thinks that AlterEgo will be useful with situations in which we are embarrassed to talk or even write about something.
The main challenge that Kapur has to face in the near future is building a data set for the device since silent speech is something completely groundbreaking. At the moment they are working on different languages versions, extension of vocabulary as well as new functions of the device.
How would you use AlterEgo? Do you think that this device can cause any negative consequences like deteriorating the way we speak for example? Let me know in the comments!