Reading minds has long been a staple of science fiction abilities. Like many superpowers, we’re working towards gaining them via the magic of science. And researchers just took a big step towards realizing it in a system called Brain-to-Text.
Developed by a team from the Cognitive Systems Lab at KIT and the Wadsworth Center in New York, the system basically reconstructs speech by reading a person’s brainwaves. They weren’t just able to identify words, but complete sentences in continuous speech, effectively inventing a system that works like an artificial intelligence telepath of sorts.
In Brain-to-Text, seven volunteer epileptic patients were hooked up to electrodes to monitor speech-related brainwaves while reading aloud sample texts. Recordings from these sessions were combined with the interdisciplinary team’s knowledge in machine learning and linguistic processing, enabling the development of a novel method for taking the brainwaves and converting them into its text equivalent. Being able to read the minds of a small sample of seven people, of course, is far from a legit superpower, aside from the fact that it’s restricted to decoding brainwaves from audibly spoken language rather than actual thoughts. It is, however, a significant step in our quest to develop some of that Professor X swag and gives us hope for a real science fiction future.
According to the team, they hope that the technology will lead to the development of a method for speech communication for patients who cannot verbally communicate, whether due to paralysis or any other disability.