Scientists develop “decoder” that transcribes thoughts

Brittany A. Roston - Oct 31, 2014, 4:00am CDT
Scientists develop “decoder” that transcribes thoughts

Not much in this world is private any more, but your thoughts — specifically the ones you think but don’t speak — are the one thing you can be certain stays private. That certainty mightn’t be so strong in the future, however, with a team a researchers revealing that they’ve successfully decoded volunteers’ unspoken thoughts. The work was done by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, who hope the technology can one day be used to give a voice to individuals who aren’t able to speak.

The project was inspired by a past study that revealed some neurons activated in response to certain sounds, something upon which the researchers developed a decoding algorithm that uses this information to transcribe one’s inner thoughts. Essentially, the neural signatures remain consistent whether you’re speaking or thinking.

The decoder, as it is called, was tailored to each volunteers’ thoughts and speech by having them read something out loud and then read it again to themselves without speaking. The project proved successful, with the personalized decoders being able to transcribe what the volunteers were reading silently.

The decoder is still a work in progress and isn’t perfect, but the researchers are working steadily at improving it with the hopes of creating a decoding device in the future. While at it, the researchers are also working on a similar project that will decode what song someone is listening to — they’re doing this by having volunteers list to Pink Floyd.

SOURCE: News Scientists


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