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Cutting Edge Technology- MIT’s AlterEgo Headset

Technology is synonymous with futuristic for me. More recently, I have been reminded how close our society is to the Jetson’s in their utopian cartoon. A cartoon that originally aired in September of 1962 through March 1963, and was produced by Hanna-Barbara. It later resurfaced in syndication with new episodes in 1985 to 1987. Where the Flinstones were the “stone age,” the Jetsons were the “space age.” The cartoon ended in 1987, and the Jetson’s lived similar to how we do today. They had automated and flying cars, video conferencing, watches that resemble current-day smartwatches, technology to show you what you would look like with various outfits and hair styles, home computers and the Internet, cellphones, robots, and houses that offer an array of “push button” conveniences. Pretty much, all of their predictions have come to fruition. Several households have a Roomba cleaning as I type, inhabitants asking Alexa to do some task, and house a number of TVs, computers, smartphones, and internet connection. There are even cars that drive themselves, well maybe not so skillfully according to some recent news updates.


MIT researchers have developed The AlterEgo headset, that can identify words one thinks of, but does not actually speak aloud. It does this by reading signals the brain sends to the face and jaw during internal speech. According to the researchers, it has 92 percent accuracy. The design looks like a headset that is worn on one side of the head covering the ear and with a mouthpiece that extends around the jaw line below the lip. It uses bone-conduction headphones, which transmits vibrations.


This system could be beneficial in noisy environments when speaking aloud is not optimal. It is also faster than having to unlock a phone, opening apps, and then keyboarding or dictating. The MIT site indicates AlterEgo aims to combine humans and computers as a “second self.” Videos demonstrating the device show how it can be used to compute mathematical equations, control the computer, and pretty much do anything you can ask “Siri” or “Google” to do. See it in action via this link.


This concept is pretty amazing when thinking of the capabilities it might bring to people who have relied on Dragon (speech recognition) to control his or her computer. It also might provide more opportunities for communication and environmental controls for people who do not have the ability to speak or for people with limited motoric abilities. Over the past years, technology has brought advancements with this concept in the areas of eyegaze and head tracking devices, breath and mouth controls, and feet controls. The AlterEgo will be an exciting device to watch as it continues to develop.


While I am personally excited about this device, I am also internally laughing at the thought of me wearing it and all the “accidental commands” I would be processing using it. I find my “second self” is more often than not, talking to myself. I am constantly thinking, in language thoughts, of what I need to do, or what I am thinking about whatever it is I am experiencing at the moment. Sometimes I think non-related thoughts while I am in a conversation with others. My children can recount their entire day to me while I am silently thinking of dinner plans and my reply to their details. This could bode to a comical and/or really confusing situation for the AlterEgo.


What do you think about the AlterEgo?

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Tags: Communication, Control, Controls, Environmental, New, Remote, Technology


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Comment by Jennifer Mundl on December 11, 2018 at 10:46am

Very exciting with every incoming now. It is hard to keep up with what is new and what is good. Mind control is good and bad in many ways. The book 1984 is a valuable teaching the possibility of Utopia.

Comment by Erika J. Kluge on April 19, 2018 at 9:48am

Great info Joel. One issue I have had with headsets is the bluetooth connectivity of the product with the operating system of device (Apple- MacBook pro or iPhone or iPad). I have experienced issues with Bose and Beats on occasion when Apple does a major update and the headset developer has not matched it rendering the bluetooth capability incompatible until the update fix is released. 

Comment by Joel on April 19, 2018 at 1:55am

Dragon has come along way from when I first started using it when it was called DragonDictate, but it can still be very frustrating when you want to use the computer in an effortless (and sometimes mindless) way and Dragon refuses to cooperate. The AlterEgo on the other hand may take this to an extreme. There are many times that Dragon has disobeyed my commands in fairly comical ways, but I don't think I would appreciate Dragon knowing my thoughts before I dictate them.

I use Dragon on a daily basis so speech recognition accuracy is vital to me. I have spent a lot of time over the years looking for headsets online after the one I use invariably breaks. So if you don't want to wait for a mind-reading headset to be released in your price range, here are a few resources I have found that helped me choose the best headset for me. Some of these articles are not the most recent but these headsets will probably still be fairly high quality depending on your needs. Also I would still suggest you purchase your headset from Amazon rather than one of these websites. Simply use them as a guide.




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