Innovations in speech technology influence the fundamental ways in which IVR systems and applications evolve in their functionality. Since text-to-speech (TTS) and automatic speech recognition (ASR) technologies integrate with a majority of IVR applications, advancement in the respective fields are not only exciting but are indicative of how future IVR applications will operate.
An article published by DailyTech elaborates on a new technology called “iBrain” developed by startup company NeuroVigil, which Stanford researchers are utilizing in an attempt enable Professor Stephen Hawking to communicate.
Hawking, who has a degenerative neural disease, is currently utilizing a device that decodes his facial movements and translate them into speech. The device is slow going, however, and takes hours to translate a couple of sentences.
Per Jason Mick, iBrain device users simply slip the device onto their head and it proceeds to scan and process brain wave activity in an attempt to understand “willful thoughts with words.” The device can distinguish between different types of brain waves to discern what type of actions or thoughts a person is attempting to communicate.
For example, gamma rays are generated when a paralyzed person attempts to move their limbs, and alpha waves are brain waves associated with relaxation. Researchers hope that the device will function “by associating willful thought with words – or possible letters –” to develop a speech system that will “far outpace the painstakingly slow dictation systems that fully paralyzed individuals like Professor Hawking use.”
According to DailyTech, the system might potentially go a step further and could also be used to order exoskeleton movements, granting paralyzed individuals mobility. For now the technology is still in the research and development phases, but if researchers are able to cultivate NeuroVigil’s device into a fully functioning product, the ramifications will be significant and far-reaching.
Developing an algorithm that is able to process people’s thoughts and turns these ideas into speech would revolutionize not just IVR and speech recognition technology, but the medical industry as a whole.
Products and systems could be developed that allowed individuals who were previously unable to communicate to successfully express their thoughts in a manner consistent with those who have full speech and communication abilities.
For now, we are all waiting to see if Stanford researchers can synthesize the ideas that power the iBrain product with current technology to produce something that allows for this functionality. Best of luck to them!