If you've read any sort of science fiction, it's likely you've heard about subvocalization, the practice of silently saying words in your head. It's common when we read (though it does slow you down), but it's only recently begun to be used as a way… Engadget RSS Feed
A wearable being developed at MIT’s Media Lab knows what its wearer is going to say before any sound is made.
The AlterEgo device uses electrodes to pick up neuromuscular signals in the jaw and face that are triggered by internal verbalisations – all before a single word has been spoken, claim MIT’s researchers.
Every one of us has an internal monologue of sorts, a place where our most intimate thoughts come and go as they please. Now, thanks to sophisticated sensors and the power of machine learning, the act of saying words in your head might not be so private after all.
MIT believes that the simple act of concentrating on a particular vocalisation is enough to engage the system and receive a response, and it has developed an experimental prototype that appears to prove it.
To ensure that the conversation remains internal, the device includes a pair of bone-conduction headphones. Instead of sending sound directly into the ear, these transmit vibrations through the bones of the face to the inner ear, conveying information back to the user without interrupting the normal auditory experience.
Arnav Kapur, the graduate student who is leading development of the new system at MIT’s Media Lab, wants to augment human cognition with more subtlety than today’s devices allow for. “Our idea was: Could we have a computing platform that’s more internal, that melds human and machine in some ways, and that feels like an internal extension of our own cognition?” he said.
Kapur’s thesis advisor, Professor Pattie Maes, points out that our current relationship with technology – particularly smartphones – is disruptive in the negative sense. These devices demand our attention and often distract us from real-world conversations, our own thoughts, and other things that should demand greater attention, such as road safety.
“We basically can’t live without our cellphones, our digital devices,” she said. “But at the moment, the use of those devices is very disruptive. If I want to look something up that’s relevant to a conversation I’m having, I have to find my phone and type in the passcode and open an app and type in some search keyword, and the whole thing requires that I completely shift attention from my environment and the people that I’m with to the phone itself.”
The challenge is to find a way to alter that relationship without sacrificing the many benefits of portable technology.
“So, my students and I have for a very long time been experimenting with new form factors and new types of experience that enable people to still benefit from all the wonderful knowledge and services that these devices give us, but do it in a way that lets them remain in the present,” she said.
Instead of being a precursor to some kind of Orwellian dystopia, the MIT team believes that the technology, once perfected, could improve the relationship between people and the devices they use, as well as serving a variety of practical functions.
So far the device has been able to surreptitiously give users information on the time and solve mathematical problems. It’s also been given wearers the power to win chess games, silently receiving opponents’ moves and offering computer-recommended responses, claims MIT.
The team is still collecting data and training the system. “We’re in the middle of collecting data, and the results look nice,” Kapur said. “I think we’ll achieve full conversation some day.”
The platform could one day provide a way for people to communicate silently in environments where noise is a concern, from runway operators to special forces soldiers. And it could perhaps even open up a world of verbal communication for people who have been disabled by illness or accident.
The rise of voice search in the US – where 20 percent of all searches are now voice-triggered, according to Google – together with the rapid spread of digital assistants, such as Siri, Alexa, Cortana, Google Assistant, and IBM’s new Watson Assistant, has shifted computing away from GUIs, screens, and keyboards. And, of course, smartphones and tablets have moved computers off the desktop and out of the office, too.
However, while voice is the most intuitive channel of human communication, it isn’t suitable for navigating through, and selecting from, large amounts of visual data, for example, which is why technophiles are always drawn back to their screens.
This new interface will excite many, and may have a range of extraordinary and promising applications. But doubtless it will alarm many others as the rise of AI forces us to grapple with concepts such as privacy, liability, and responsibility.
And let’s hope, too, that this technology doesn’t always translate what’s on human beings’ minds into real-world action or spoken words, as the world could become a bizarre place indeed.
In the meantime, transhumanists will see this as yet another example of the gradual integration of technology with biology – and with good reason. But whether these innovations will encourage us to become more human, and less focused on our devices, is a different matter; arguably, such devices may train human beings to think and behave in more machine-like ways to avoid disorderly thinking.
Meanwhile, thoughts that can be hacked? Don’t bet against it.
I reviewed the Fitbit Ionic when it launched late last year, and at the time I didn’t much care for it. I was not into the design, and there were multiple software issues. I’ve continued to wear the watch on and off since then, and I spent about a week with the Fitbit Versa just recently. The Ionic has gotten several updates since my original review, including the recent bump to FitbitOS 2.0 that matches what ships on the Versa. With Google’s Wear OS still on a downward trajectory, I’m giving Fitbit’s flagship smartwatch another shot.
Following on from a similar report which came out of the altogether more reliable Bloomberg last week, DigiTimes is today reporting that Apple is indeed working with TSMC on a new MicroLED display technology for use in future products.
A research team from University California Berkeley and the University of California San Diego has developed a wearable system for monitoring electrical activity in the stomach.
It is as accurate at diagnosing some medical conditions as current invasive methods, without traditional treatments’ restriction to clinical settings.
Gastrointestinal (GI) problems are the second leading cause for missing work or school in the US, and are responsible for 10 percent of patient visits to a doctor. But, according to a UCSD and UC Berkeley paper published in Nature,their prevalence is“at odds with bottlenecks in their diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up.”
Trying to figure out the source of problems in the GI tract can be a major challenge for doctors. In search of answers, patients are sometimes asked to undergo unpleasant or invasive procedures – such manometry, which requires a catheter to be inserted through the nose to measure pressure at different points inside the stomach.
The problem is especially complicated with young children, who usually need sedation for invasive procedures. The wearable system developed by the UCSD and UC Berkeley team offers an alternative without sacrificing the accuracy of the results.
It consists of a custom circuitboard, a battery and off-the-shelf electrodes, and connects to a smartphone application. But the researchers’ real achievement has been to design algorithms capable of recognising and analysing the stomach’s varying electrical signals.
“We think our system will spark a new kind of medicine, where a gastroenterologist can quickly see where and when a part of the GI tract is showing abnormal rhythms and, as a result, make more accurate, faster, and personalised diagnoses,” said Armen Gharibans, one of the paper’s co-authors and a bioengineering postdoctoral researcher at the University of California San Diego.
Co-author Todd Coleman, a UC San Diego professor of bioengineering, points out that being able to monitor patients without an invasive procedure over longer periods of time could lead to better outcomes.
“This work opens the door to accurately monitoring the dynamic activity of the GI system,” he said. “Until now, it was quite challenging to accurately measure the electrical patterns of stomach activity in a continuous manner, outside of a clinical setting. From now on, we will be able to observe patterns and analyse them, in both healthy and unwell people as they go about their daily lives.”
It is expected that as well as spotting health problems, UCSD and UC Berkeley’s wearable technology could also help with their management. It could even inform the diets of healthy people, from competitive athletes to pregnant women.
“Changes to digestion and gastric health are hallmarks of two understudied processes: ageing and pregnancy,” said Benjamin Smarr, another of the paper’s co-authors and a chronobiologist at UC Berkeley.
“One of our hopes is that this technology will allow us to quantify the changes that happen during these critical periods in life. They affect the vast majority of humanity, and it will now be possible to study what’s going on, and build predictive, personal medical applications based on getting ahead of bad changes.”
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2018 has certainly been the year of healthtech wearables, which have proven to be especially adept at monitoring changes in electrical activity within the body, which may indicate a variety of different medical conditions. Combined with AI and smart algorithms, doctors have been able to make accurate diagnoses that are comparable to traditional investigations, but far more swiftly and sensitively. Speeding up diagnoses, while offering non-invasive alternatives to longstanding procedures, will not only save lives, but perhaps encourage more people to seek treatment early.
Apple has plans in place to develop MicroLED panels for both small-size and large-size devices, with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) providing support for producing smaller form factor applications, which could include future Apple Watch models and AR wearables, according to DigiTimes senior analyst Luke Lin.
Apple is working with TSMC to develop micro LED panels on silicon-based backplanes for use in the Apple Watch and an augmented reality (AR) wearable device, Lin noted.
MicroLED panels use different light-emitting compounds than the current OLED displays and should help to make future devices slimmer, brighter, and less power-hungry. Citing sources in the upstream supply chain, Lin claims Apple is preparing two sizes of MicroLED panel for small devices. They are said to include a 1.3 to 1.4-inch panel for future Apple Watch iterations and a 0.7 to 0.8-inch panel for an AR wearable device, potentially AR glasses.
Lin also believes Apple is working on developing large-size MicroLED panels on TFT-based backplates for use in products much larger than those in its current MacBook lineup, although he offered no specifics on what they might be.
Based on Lin’s sources, the MicroLED panel destined for a future Apple Watch may enter mass production in the second half on 2018 or in 2019, which would suggest its use in Series 4 or 5 models. The large-size panel could see production in 2019 or later, while the panel for the AR device is yet to have a production schedule, according to the analyst.
The cost of the new MicroLED panels are said to be 400-600 percent higher than OLED panels used in the current Apple Watch. As such, Lin believes Apple will initially only use the MicroLED panel in future “top-of-the-line” versions of Apple Watch, although whether that refers specifically to iterations of the Apple Watch Edition remains unclear.
Apple is understood to own a manufacturing facility in Santa Clara, California, where it is designing and producing test samples of its own MicroLED displays, with a view to eventually replacing largely Samsung-made OLED displays currently used across its product range.
Apple’s interest in the technology was revealed in its acquisition of MicroLED firm LuxVue back in 2014 and previous reports have also claimed Apple will introduce MicroLED technology in the Apple Watch first, with some rumors pointing to that happening as soon as this year.
However, Bloomberg believes that it will likely be a few years before Apple’s MicroLED displays will appear in shipping products – perhaps two years for the Apple Watch and three to five years for the iPhone.
Researchers have created a wearable monitor that can track your stomach's electrical activity for signs of digestion maladies. Called electrogastrography (EGG), it's like an EEG for the GI tract, and was used briefly in the '90s but abandoned due to… Engadget RSS Feed
Scientists at the Tufts University School of Engineering have developed a wearable sensor that can stick to a single tooth to track a user’s diet, based on chemical changes in the mouth.
The sensor, which is mounted onto a tooth and communicates wirelessly with a mobile device, transmits information on the intake of glucose, salt, and alcohol. The subtle device has a 2mm x 2mm footprint and transmits information in response to an incoming radio signal.
The Tufts University research will soon be published in the journal Advanced Materials.
The technology has obvious preventative potential. Giving medical professionals insight into dietary habits could support the treatment of allergies, food intolerances, and eating disorders. It could also help dentists detect problems before they grow to be more serious.
The team at the Tufts University School of Engineering has say that, in future, sensors such as this could be able to detect and record of a wide range of nutrients, chemicals, and physiological states, well beyond the tracking of glucose, salt, and alcohol intakes.
“In theory, we can modify the bio-responsive layer in these sensors to target other chemicals – we are really limited only by our creativity,” said Fiorenzo Omenetto, corresponding author of the study and Professor of Engineering at Tufts.
“We have extended common RFID technology to a sensor package that can dynamically read and transmit information on its environment, whether it is affixed to a tooth, to skin, or to any other surface.”
The assumption is that miniature sensors such as this will work alongside mobile applications and be monitored by healthcare professionals. In the current climate, this may raise concerns among some citizens about data security and privacy.
There are obvious health benefits to round-the-clock dietary monitoring. But convincing the public that in-mouth wearables should be a mass market product may be the biggest challenge facing the technology.
Plus… Danish scientists develop sensor to detect dangerous drinking water
Danish researchers at Aarhus University have developed a sensor capable of detecting specific bacteria in drinking water, such as E. coli.
The sensor uses DNA-magnetic particle technology to seek out and isolate the bacteria using nano-sized magnets. The sensor can connect directly to a smartphone to provide a reading that detects a single cell of E. coli in less than one hour. Traditional detection methods require lab tests and can take several days.
The research team is aiming to have a commercial product ready for market within three years.
The innovative application of sensors, wearables, and AI has been a strong theme already this year. Read our in-depth report on the issues facing health services as care providers get to grips with a fast-changing world.
A recent breakthrough in miniaturized sensor technology could end up taking a bite out of personal privacy. Researchers developed a wearable small enough to stick on a human tooth virtually unnoticed. And it’s capable of wirelessly transmitting data on any chemicals it comes in contact with. The team, researchers from Tufts University School of Engineering, set out to create a better solution for monitoring dietary intake. Their work could prove invaluable to medical researchers and has the potential to save innumerable lives. The device could give doctors real-time alerts on patients based on actual chemical intake. This means that rather…
Up until a few years ago, interconnected devices were more dream than reality, and it’s easy to feel like the fitness tracker fad was the beginning of wearables. In reality, of course, the groundwork was laid decades before— years even before the Internet was launched.
With all the amazing potential for wearable IoT devices, it’s important to realize how far we’ve come—and how many devices didn’t end up changing the world, but did make important contributions to the future of IoT. Even dreams of the future in culture and art laid the framework for one of the world’s most exciting industries. Let’s take a look at how we got to today’s incredible wearables—wearables that will one day be replaced by even more sophisticated technology.
The First Wearable Computer
Surprisingly, the first wearable computer on record was created in 1955—and was designed to predict roulette wheels. The developer, Edward O. Thorp, used the device secretly in the early 60s. It was not known to exist until 1966, though it was developed years earlier.
Early Wearable IoT: Head-Mounted Displays
Back when televisions were still a marvel of engineering, head-mounted displays were already piquing the interest of enterprising minds.
In 1960 Morton Heilig received a patent for head-mounted display technology, but it was not until 1968 that the first head-mounted virtual reality system was built. The Sword of Damocles was a rudimentary headset developed by computer scientist Ivan Sutherland, and had to be suspended from the ceiling as it was too heavy to wear. Though the graphics were very simple, the fact that this early VR device was created nearly 50 years ago is incredible. The year before, in 1967, Hubert Upton used the head-mounted display concept for a more practical purpose: aiding in lip reading. His device was mounted using glasses, and was one of the first wearable computers.
Sega’s VR Glasses and Google Glass
Consumer VR devices had several flops before they started to become successful in recent years. In 1993, Sega’s prototype VR glasses never made it to market and cost the company a huge amount of money. Google’s much-anticipated Google Glass headset (a complete wearable computer with displays designed as a pair of glasses) came on the public market in 2014, but soon lost momentum, since it struggled with technical difficulties. Recently, however, it has successfully reemerged with an Enterprise Edition as a tool for workers in industries like manufacturing.
Fitness Trackers & Beyond
Fitness trackers like FitBit didn’t really introduce new technology of their own—but they fused several technologies together into one wearable device. GPS, pedometer functions, heartrate monitor, and other sensors heralded the future of wearables—multi-function trackers.
Wearables used to track health and fitness are common among people who are watching their weight and trying to live healthier lives, but they’re also beginning to emerge in healthcare settings. By helping patients monitor their health more closely and making healthcare professionals more efficient, wearable technology could reduce healthcare costs by $ 200 billion in the next 25 years.
Present and Future Applications for Wearable IoT
Obviously, we’re only beginning to scratch the surface when it comes to practical applications for wearable IoT. There’s a lot more that can be done with sensors and IoT technology than tracking our steps and sleep.
One area that could see incredible benefit from wearables is emergency management. Hurricanes in the 1960s and 1970s caused trillions of dollars in damage, and spurred the growth of the emergency management field. With hurricanes causing extensive damage each year, disaster relief is more important than ever. Now, IoT wearables could help get relief to victims and help them find their loved ones or their way to safety when phone lines and other methods of communication are shut down.
Wearables are also becoming popular for personal safety—people who are out late on their own can call for help at the press of a button. Some of these devices even record audio that can help loved ones gain context about the danger.
History Illustrates IoT’s Potential
The great minds of the 20th century set the stage for a boom in VR devices and other wearable technology that’s helping us live better lives. With all the progress that’s been made in the last 50 years, it’s exciting to think about how far we still have to go—and about all the devices we’ll one day be able to wear.