Your self-directed employment assistant
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?