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Brain-Computer Interface Works With Speech Centers

Unknown Lamer posted more than 3 years ago | from the dragon-naturally-thinking dept.

Science 58

Scottingham writes "Science Daily reports on new research that uses electrodes placed in the speech centers of the brain to move a cursor around the screen. Participants were instructed to utter different vowel sounds while their neural activity was parsed and analyzed. Once analyzed and connected to a cursor-control program, participants quickly learned to use the different vowel sounds to move a cursor around a screen. The system can distinguish between actual speech and the cursor controlling thought sounds."

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58 comments

What a user sounds like? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35749552)

aiauiieuuoauoieaaeaauiaaaeiiooaoieaoouieuo uuiaieueouuuoeeeuaeaoaaueeiouoieoiiuoaieoo ieaeiuiuoeaoiaoiauauoeiauoauuiaauiaioieioooi

Or something approximate to that?

Re:What a user sounds like? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35749598)

Well, that does sound like most Halo players...

Re:What a user sounds like? (2)

cobrausn (1915176) | more than 3 years ago | (#35749684)

The other day I went and logged into a Counter-Strike server just for the hell of it, and made the mistake of leaving the voice chat feed on. It was as if someone took all the rage and stupid on the internet and turned it into a live audio stream that fed directly to my headset. At first it was amusing. It didn't last.

Basically, people are terrible. I'm amazed we kept it together long enough to get here.

Re:What a user sounds like? (2)

justin12345 (846440) | more than 3 years ago | (#35750716)

Damn, my mod points just expired or I'd give you a +1 Insightful. Instead I'll just leave this right here:

http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/19/ [penny-arcade.com]

Re:What a user sounds like? (1)

jusdisgi (617863) | more than 3 years ago | (#35750832)

Interesting you should mention CounterStrike. I was just wondering why they used vowel sounds when they clearly should have chosen W-A-S-D.

Re:What a user sounds like? (1)

mldi (1598123) | more than 3 years ago | (#35750896)

Basically, people are terrible. I'm amazed we kept it together long enough to get here.

Well, thanks to modern medicine and warning labels, the idiots thrive. So, goodbye natural selection!

Re:What a user sounds like? (1)

Labcoat Samurai (1517479) | more than 3 years ago | (#35763554)

I don't see a single racial slur or homophobic remark in there.... unless "aiauiieuuoauoieaaeaauiaaaeiiooaoieaoouieuo" is a disparaging remark aimed at Hawaiians or something.

Re:What a user sounds like? (2)

3vi1 (544505) | more than 3 years ago | (#35749664)

From the summary: "The system can distinguish between actual speech and the cursor controlling thought sounds."

Re:What a user sounds like? (2)

LordStormes (1749242) | more than 3 years ago | (#35749824)

Went to the witch doctor, here's what he said to his PC...

Re:What a user sounds like? (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 3 years ago | (#35755764)

Went to the witch doctor, here's what he said to his PC...

Witch doctors are not PC.

Re:What a user sounds like? (2)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 3 years ago | (#35750342)

I tried to pronounce that, and now there's four humpback whales who want to mate with me trying to bash down the door of my vacation suite here. Decisions decisions.

Re:What a user sounds like? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35751200)

Whats to decide?

Re:What a user sounds like? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35750728)

aiauiieuuoauoieaaeaauiaaaeiiooaoieaoouieuo uuiaieueouuuoeeeuaeaoaaueeiouoieoiiuoaieoo ieaeiuiuoeaoiaoiauauoeiauoauuiaauiaioieioooi

Or:

hjkllklkjjklhkkhjljkhjkjklhlkjkhkjhkkjlh

Re:What a user sounds like? (2)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#35751554)

I used translate.google.com to translate that from Finnish and it's a URL shortener pointing to goatse.

Re:What a user sounds like? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35754660)

Vowel movements?

Why use a shovel when dynamite would do? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35749628)

Couldn't they just use a microphone? Isn't that preferable to drilling a hole in one's head and inserting electrodes into his brain?

Re:Why use a shovel when dynamite would do? (1)

seepho (1959226) | more than 3 years ago | (#35749674)

Think of it more as an exercise in dynamite testing, rather than hole digging.

Re:Why use a shovel when dynamite would do? (1)

Scottingham (2036128) | more than 3 years ago | (#35749692)

Couldn't they just use a microphone? Isn't that preferable to drilling a hole in one's head and inserting electrodes into his brain?

This system does not require them to speak at all. They merely have to think of the vowel sounds and the cursor will move accordingly.

Re:Why use a shovel when dynamite would do? (2)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 3 years ago | (#35749694)

Let's face it, this research is geared toward users with disabilities. A microphone works for some of those people but not all. From TFA,

"There are many directions we could take this, including development of technology to restore communication for patients who have lost speech due to brain injury or damage to their vocal cords or airway," says author Eric C. Leuthardt, MD, of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

(emphasis added)

Re:Why use a shovel when dynamite would do? (1)

mldi (1598123) | more than 3 years ago | (#35750910)

Oh come on, you don't think it'd be hella cool to have completely silent conversations? No more riding in the elevator with the jackass yapping loudly into his "bluetooth".

Re:Why use a shovel when dynamite would do? (2)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | more than 3 years ago | (#35752072)

No, then we'd have to put up with *silent* jackasses waving their arms about without the *slightest* idea of what they are going on about.

Re:Why use a shovel when dynamite would do? (2)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 3 years ago | (#35749708)

If you read the article (Shocking I know), you would know that this is aimed at people who, becasue of either brain injury, or injury to to the vocal system, can't speak. The long term goal is to allow the user to "speak" with a computer voice using the same brain impulses as they would to speak normally. The ability to move to a mouse around is just a stepping stone.

Re:Why use a shovel when dynamite would do? (2)

danlip (737336) | more than 3 years ago | (#35749730)

It works even if the user can't speak. it would be extremely useful for someone like Stephen Hawking.

Re:Why use a shovel when dynamite would do? (1)

Narpak (961733) | more than 3 years ago | (#35751170)

To hell with Hawking! When can I use this to play Battlefield?!

Re:Why use a shovel when dynamite would do? (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#35751604)

When can I use this to play Battlefield?!

"ooooooeeeaaaaeeeeuuuuueeuaeuaeueuaaueueaaaaaaueeeoooooooooo"
"Admin, the commander is spamming teamchat with Moose mating calls"
*USMC has initiated a recall vote.*

FF6's New web browsing interface (2)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 3 years ago | (#35749672)

Firefox 6: In order to play games on the latest incarnation of its web browser, the UI requires that you must think in Russian [youtube.com] , not merely think in English and then translate into Russian. Sure, it's a PITA, but the graphics are pretty sweet.

Can you do that, Dr. Leuthardt? :)

Cubicle Terror (0)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35749744)

Cubicle Mate: "Ooooh . . . aaahhhh . . . uuummmm . . . " Me: "Shut up, God dammit!" Cubicle Mate: "Hey, I'm just using this new technology to move the cursor around the screen." Me: "Well, what this technology needs, is some of that week old pizza, with the green stuff growing on it shoved down your throat!" Cubicle Mate: "hmmmfhj kdkfdd . . . sdfeffff . . ."

Re:Cubicle Terror (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35750032)

Let's see if you get a reply chain like the other guy....

This system [i]does not require you to talk.[/i]

The New Game Controller (2)

Grindalf (1089511) | more than 3 years ago | (#35749750)

You can just imagine the new X-Box controller manual. “Just force the electrodes in to the side of you skull as shown in the diagram ...” :0)

Re:The New Game Controller (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 3 years ago | (#35754100)

You can just imagine the new X-Box controller manual. “Just force the electrodes in to the side of you skull as shown in the diagram ...” :0)

Use RoHS solder to connect DB9 Cannon plug to electrodes. Connect pin 1 to positive and pin 8 to negative. Disregard this if your brain is a positive ground model.

Welcome to the FUTURE! (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | more than 3 years ago | (#35749754)

You know what? This is awesome. The other day I was a little down and pessimistic that the aught years didn't really seem to have the leaps and bound of progress that decades in the previous century did. I mean, jets, radar, space travel, computers, the Internet, medicine, manufacturing, plastics and other materials. I dunno, maybe I wasn't paying attention or something. But it seems like between 2001 and 2010, the biggest move forward was lolcats and smartphones. And for as awesome as smartphones could be, mostly they're just expensive toys.

But with this and other such recent news of progress I feel like this is actually going somewhere. We'll have direct neural interfaces of one shape or another within my lifetime.

It's just kind of exciting to look forward to.

Re:Welcome to the FUTURE! (2)

ACS Solver (1068112) | more than 3 years ago | (#35750494)

If anything, it's more fitting to be depressed because space travel has advanced far, far less over the last 50 years than just about anything.

But no, the last decade did bring a fair bit of innovation, I think. Just a few things...

On the Internet front, not much technically new, but last decade is when it truly became widespread globally, instead of being largely limited to a few rich Western countries. From 2000 to 2010, Europe went from 105 million to 475 million Net users. Mideast went from 114M to 825M. Africa, where overall use remains very low, still went from 4M to 110M. [Source: http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm%5D [internetworldstats.com]

A lot of interesting stuff happened with cybernetic implants / mind controlled tech. The BrainGate allowed paraplegics to mentally control a robotic arm (see Matt Nagle).

Stem cell research has shown some very promising things. Shinya Yamanaka came up with some method to use non-embryonic stem cells by some reprogramming process I won't claim to understand.

Spirit & Opportunity discovered proof of liquid water once on Mars, while frozen water got discovered on the Moon. And the first private spaceflights took place in this decade.

As far as gadgets and such go, some are also rather important. Digital cameras became commonplace, which I'd say is a more important innovation than smartphones, for now at least. In terms of ease and convenience, Wi-Fi and flat LCD screens became popular - with Wi-Fi being widely used and LCDs essentially pushing CRTs off the market, personal computing became easier.

Come to think of it, mobile phones! Last decade is when they went from expensive to common. In 2000, in my area at least, they'd be mostly used by businessmen and those who really had a need, but over a few years mobile phones became so widespread that grannies and schoolchildren have them now, in the last few years they've also caused landline use at home to become less prevalent.

Perelman's proof of the Poincare conjecture gave a solution to one of the most important outstanding problems in mathematics.

A functional memristor was built at HP. This can be a very important technology.

3D printing has become feasible for use.

And to finish this post, Mycoplasma laboratorium. One of the most potentially interesting developments in recent times, while it could also pose major ethical issues and possible misuse.

Interesting decade!

Re:Welcome to the FUTURE! (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | more than 3 years ago | (#35757738)

hmmm. Well you're right, we had progress in cybernetics, DNI, memristors, quantum computing, stem-cells, and I just remembered the magic that is carbon-nanotubes. There is certainly potential there and hope for the future.

As for actual REALIZED progress, as opposed to potential progress, from your list all I can really get behind is 3D printing. Which is awesome. It was one of those things I thought was pure science fiction until I saw it for myself.

I just can't feel excited about gadgets. CTR to LCD isn't groundbreaking. Sure, the proliferation of mobile phones and cameras could have vast social impact. But so far I haven't seen blogs from Honduras children. Although... Maybe cellphones were vital to the Arab uprisings. I guess we have had photage from the riots whereas before we'd only have what came out of Reuters.

As for Craig Venter's mad genius, I say go for it. Come on, what's the worst that could happen? (DUN Dun dun!)

Re:Welcome to the FUTURE! (1)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 3 years ago | (#35750722)

Beware of Monsters From The Id, Dr.Morbeus.

Re:Welcome to the FUTURE! (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#35751644)

Waiting for ST:tNG to start, I caught a clip on TMZ where some celebrity had a robo-cast that uses ultrasonic pulses to stimulate bone repair. There's some neat tech out there these days.

Re:Welcome to the FUTURE! (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | more than 3 years ago | (#35757382)

My mother used this. She broke her ankle and it wasn't healing right. The doc prescribed a device that emits an ultrasonic pulse. You know, like ultrasound looking at babies, but with no sensor. That's not, you know, super-science. The astonishing part is that it seems to help bones repair themselves.

That is, indeed, kind of a neat scientific advancement.

Unfortunately, it's completely offset by the fact that the device prescribed to my mother was $12,000. With insurance, it cost my father $200. It has batteries sealed into the box. They didn't want it back. It was disposable. A $12,000 DISPOSABLE medical electronic device. You can pick one up retail for ~$100. The actual ultrasound emitter costs about $5 from radioshack.

You know those dystopian sci-fi books where the awesome gimmick like eternal-life-pills or global surveillance is only used and abused by the rich and powerful? Yeah.

Re:Welcome to the FUTURE! (1)

nanospook (521118) | more than 3 years ago | (#35755480)

I think everything is going so slow because of our inability to harness and store energy.. Battery Technology advances has been holding everything back. I'm sure there are many other factors. It may not even be going slow.. just a lot of "hard to see" stuff going on..

Aaaaaaaaa... doesn't sound that great. (1)

dleemaas (2035220) | more than 3 years ago | (#35749766)

This seems like a step backward from existing technology. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain%E2%80%93computer_interface [wikipedia.org] If we can already control computers, prosthetics, etc. with a direct neural interface just by thinking about a direction to move a cursor or how to move an appendage, what possible application could tapping the speech center have?

Re:Aaaaaaaaa... doesn't sound that great. (1)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 3 years ago | (#35749844)

If you read the article you'll discover this very point is covered. It's for people who have all of their limbs, but can't speak for one reason or another. There have been work around systems proposed in the past where you connect the neural sensor to movement centers, then retrain the brain so that certain movements can be interrupted as speech; but this is far more direct and requires far less retraining. The cursor moving thing is really more proof of concept. The idea is to give voices to mutes.

Reminds me of warcraft (1)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 3 years ago | (#35749778)

Any time a friend sends me a whisper that reads: wwwwssdadsws111112wwwwww

Internal monologue... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35749784)

My basic thinking mechanism is through internal monologue. A device like this would literally force me to stop thinking in order to control the device. If music is playing and has lyrics, I can't really think of anything except the lyrics... which is why I tend to listen to music that is just instrumental. Same with a need to mute all commercials. Drives my g/f crazy but I "can't hear myself think".

Cubicle Terror (-1, Redundant)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35749808)

Cubicle Mate: "Ooooh . . . aaahhhh . . . uuummmm . . . "

Me: "Shut up, God dammit!"

Cubicle Mate: "Hey, I'm just using this new technology to move the cursor around the screen."

Me: "Well, what this technology needs, is some of that week old pizza, with the green stuff growing on it shoved down your throat!"

Cubicle Mate: "hmmmfhj kdkfdd . . . sdfeffff . . ."

Re:Cubicle Terror (1)

spun (1352) | more than 3 years ago | (#35750240)

You already posted this. It wasn't funny the first time. The technology does not require actual speech.

Vowel sounds? (1)

Sentsix (128268) | more than 3 years ago | (#35749814)

Vowel sounds? There's only one vowel in WASD...

OT: Burnt Toast (1)

denis-The-menace (471988) | more than 3 years ago | (#35749850)

Anybody thought about "Burnt Toast" when they saw the pic in the article?

wow (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 3 years ago | (#35749854)

Who volunteered for that lab study?

Earn $1000 in one week and get free brain surgery to boot!!!

Re:wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35751124)

I would have done it for less if I got to keep it in.

Yet another excuse (1)

msobkow (48369) | more than 3 years ago | (#35750296)

Yet another excuse for cubemates to mutter incoherently at their computers...

Beware giant APCs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35750564)

piloted by quadriplegic burn victims.

Finally ... (1)

Tjp($)pjT (266360) | more than 3 years ago | (#35750582)

My dream of grunting like a caveman to control my computer is realized...

Stuttering (1)

smuggl3r (2036218) | more than 3 years ago | (#35750954)

Could this help people with stuttering? I hope so.

Just imagine... (1)

empty mind (1355971) | more than 3 years ago | (#35751522)

...how awesome it would be to be able to record what you think. As a musician, I would be able to just imagine a song playing and it would be recorded without the need of being transcribed. Simply amazing, but probably just a dream.

What happens when you hook it up in reverse? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35752058)

Use trackpad gestures to move the cursor to translate back to sound-thoughts:

[Two fingers flipping around half-circles and suddenly vertically leaving the pad] translates in the subject's head to "Up yours, mate!" (Including appropriate thought-accent, of course.)

I thought they'd already done this with monkeys? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35752322)

My understanding was that this has been done already (with Monkeys) and as such isn't really a breakthrough. The main problem is the hygienic one of putting metal probes in people's heads.

oxymoron (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35753102)

This will never work on politicians since there is no shit for brains interface, therefore your argument is invalid.

Hey, I'm a modern American! (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 3 years ago | (#35755404)

If I'm having difficulty with my mouse, I'll just have electrodes implanted in my brain! Why not? The government says it will save me in just about every other way imaginable, too!

Sounds like a plan to me. But I think I'll make a plan B. And C and D. Just in case.

i guess this demonstrates (1)

KingBenny (1301797) | more than 3 years ago | (#35775176)

the importance of NOT thinking in words but in symbols and concepts if you want at least a bit of privacy in the (maybe near?) future. But, on the upside, we WILL have the joy of preserving hawkings brain a jar then. Provost Zakharov would have been proud ...
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