Let’s stay with the stroke / medical science / sci-fi Venn diagram this week, after last week’s Night of the Living Pigs.
In the endless battle against FAKE NEWS!!! Aunty Beeb trailed a story last week about how computers can read our minds now.
Their story – you guessed it – quickly backed off from that claim. Nevertheless, the real story as reported in National Geographic was no less amazing.
[Researchers] hope to help people who have been robbed of their ability to speak by conditions such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis / motor neurone disease and strokes.NAtional geographic, APRIL 24, 2019
It turns out that the science that led to the promise of this awesomeness isn’t so different from the tests that I was undergoing at the end of last year.
Y’see, patients… were already being monitored for epileptic seizures, with stamp-size arrays of electrodes placed directly on the surfaces of their brains. OK then, a bit more invasive than my home telemetry test. But anyway –
as the participants read off hundreds of sentences—some from classic children’s stories such as Sleeping Beauty and Alice in Wonderland—the electrodes monitored slight fluctuations in the brain’s voltage, which computer models learned to correlate with their speech.
Computer models connected these variations with a complex simulation of a vocal tract in order to effect a translation into synthesised speech. As Christian Herff, a postdoctoral researcher who studies similar brain-activity-to-speech methods, observes, it’s a very, very elegant approach, and I commend the whole article to you.
Here’s my favourite line:
Researchers also stress that these systems do not equate to mind-reading: The studies monitored only the brain regions that orchestrate the vocal tract’s movements during conscious speech.emphasis added
Sure, Your Honour, let’s go with that.
NEXT WEEK, how we go from speech synthesis to this –