Mind-reader: MIT’s AlterEgo wearable knows what you’re about to say

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mit alterEgo wearable predicts speech

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.

Read more: Apple hires Google AI chief to head machine learning | Analysis

The benefits of silent speech

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.

Read more: MITs CSAIL lab studies aquatic life with robot fish

The potential of AlterEgo

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.

Read more: Health IoT: New wearable can diagnose stomach problems

Internet of Business says

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.

Read more: AI regulation & ethics: How to build more human-focused AI

Read more: Fetch launches world’s first autonomous AI smart ledger

The post Mind-reader: MIT’s AlterEgo wearable knows what you’re about to say appeared first on Internet of Business.

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Jay and Silent Bob are coming to virtual reality, whether you’re ready or not

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Filmmaker Kevin Smith first broke into the film industry thanks to his no-budget, 1994 indie comedy Clerks, and now that movie’s two most memorable characters will be coming to virtual reality. Jay and Silent Bob VR will be a live-action comedy series that will be written and directed by Smith, shot from the point of view of his Silent Bob character as Jason Mewes’ Jay “leads the way through a string of idiotic adventures.”

It’s just one of several VR projects in development that were announced today by STX Entertainment’s Surreal division, which handles VR and immersive entertainment production for the company. Among the other titles are an untitled live-action series from John Wick writer Derek Kolstad, about a government agent sent to…

Continue reading…

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How to sync your local iTunes library when you’re subscribed to Apple Music

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Apple Music is one of the best music streaming options when you have a local library of unreleased songs, live concerts, or remixes. But this method will also allow you to sync hi-fiedlity music such as ALAC to your iPhone.

While not completely obvious, it is possible to sync your local library while also having a cloud-based Apple Music library on your iPhone or iPad.



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“Prosthetic Memory Systems,” Delivered Via Electrode, Could Be Dope, If You’re Willing To Wait A While

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Prosthetic memory systems: no longer just some sci-fi nonsense.

Researchers just completed a military-funded project intended to boost patients’ recall. At first glance, the numbers look really promising. At second glance, though, they might just be enough cause for optimism, but, well, not much more. 

The 15 participants were seeking treatment for epilepsy-related memory loss at North Carolina’s Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. They had already received surgery to place small brain implants in an effort to map what was going on in their brains to better treat their epilepsy.

In the study, published in the Journal of Neural Engineering on March 28, the participants in the study were asked to complete a simple task: look at an image on a screen and then correctly identify it among three or four other images after a short delay. While they were doing so, the researchers were busy mapping their brain activity to identify the region that displayed the most activity when the participant remembered the correct image.

In a second trial, the researchers used those small electrodes to stimulate the “correct answer” areas they had just identified.

The result? Stimulated participants’ short term memory improved by 37 percent, and their long-term memory (or what the researchers are calling that — a similar task with a longer day) improved by 35 percent.

“This is the first time scientists have been able to identify a patient’s own brain cell code or pattern for memory and, in essence, ‘write in’ that code to make existing memory work better, an important first step in potentially restoring memory loss,” said Robert Hampson, the lead researcher on this project, in a press release.


The researchers received funding from DARPA in the hope that their work could help soldiers who face memory loss after head injuries.

Some caveats: this was one clinical trial conducted on just 15 people who were asked to complete one specific, simple task in a hospital setting. It’s not at all clear this would help you stop losing your keys so damn much, nor would you want to necessarily undergo surgery to try it. At least, not at its current stage of development, which is just proof-of-concept. 

The results from this latest memory boosting study, which the researchers are calling a “prosthetic memory system,” are impressive. They might even inspire optimism, if you’re into that sort of thing.  This experiment lays the groundwork for future human research into technology that can restore or enhance brain function, and that’s nothing to dismiss.

But for as long as scientists have studied memory loss, no matter its cause, the timeline for when we’d have a viable solution was always in “the near future,” “sometime down the line.” A stock answer for when Alzheimer’s might be cured is always “50 years away,” conveniently after that scientist would likely have retired.

So what does this study show? A cool, promising future of prosthetic memories. But not for, say, 50 years or so.

The post “Prosthetic Memory Systems,” Delivered Via Electrode, Could Be Dope, If You’re Willing To Wait A While appeared first on Futurism.


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How to Organize, Manage & Delete Photos Like You’re Swiping on Tinder

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I have never used my Photos app to properly sort my pictures into albums, and I’m going to make an educated guess and say that this is true for most of us. We take a bunch of photos at an event or with friends, share the ones we love, and let the others take up space on our devices. When it comes time to find a photo, I’m always searching through the All Photos album, scanning for the one I need. But there is a better way! I found Slidebox because I was looking for an app that would let me easily create albums, sort photos into those albums, and delete the photos I don’t need to keep. To my absolute delight, Slidebox allows me to do this super easily by using swiping gestures to quickly sort through photos like you sort through potential connections on Tinder. Learn more on why I love this app and what it does below.

Related: Find Your Art History Doppelganger with Google Arts & Culture

Slidebox (Free)

What It Does

It takes two seconds to set up Slidebox and you’re ready to start using gestures and swipes to get organized. When you first set up the app, it will show you the basic instructions on the screen. I’ve listed the basic gestures in bullet points and added some extra info to each one below:

  • Swipe Left/Right to navigate.

If you don’t want to sort a photo into an album or delete it, you can simply swipe left to move on to the next photo. Or, you may want to look through multiple similar photos by swiping left and right before deciding which to keep.

  • Swipe up to Trash

When you swipe up and move a photo to trash, it isn’t automatically deleted. That means if you make a mistake, there is no need to panic. You can tap on the trash can in the upper right corner of the screen to either restore any photos you accidentally moved to trash or permanently delete the photos. When you permanently delete the photos, they will be removed from your Photos app (and therefore iCloud library) as well.

  • Tap Album to Sort

At the bottom of the Unsorted tab, you’ll see your albums. You can add new albums or add albums that already exist in your Photos app. Once you’ve added an album, it will appear at the bottom. That way, you can swipe through the albums and easily tap on one to add the current photo to that album.

  • Long Press to Share

If you want to share a photo that’s Unsorted in the Slidebox app, you can simply tap and hold it. The Share menu will pop up. From there, you can share it via messages, email, or social media. You can also copy, print, save to Files, turn it into an Apple Watch Face, and more.

  • Tap Photo to Zoom & More

Want to view a photo full screen? Quick tap the photo and it will zoom. You can also use two fingers to pinch to zoom in and out. When you tap on a photo and make it fullscreen, you’ll see a star at the bottom. Tap the star to add the photo to your Favorites. If the star is yellow, it’s in your Favorites. In which case, you would tap the star again to remove it from Favorites.

Why We Love It

Don’t worry if the information above feels like too much all at once. The app is really great about keeping the instructions super simple, and if you need a refresher at any time, tap the question mark in the upper left corner of the Unsorted tab in the app. Once you get the first three gestures down, you can manage, organize, and delete thousands of photos more quickly than ever before. It’s good to note that changes you make to your photos in this app will be mimicked in the Photos app; so if you create a new album and sort a hundred photos into it, you’ll see that album in the Photos app with all the photos you added.

We see gestures used in lots of apps, but I would argue that Slidebox makes the best use of them. I have 6000 photos to sort through but it doesn’t feel like an overwhelming task because of how easily I’m able to sort a photo into an album, delete it, or skip it. The app has four tabs for all of your photo management needs: Unsorted, Favorites, Timeline, and Albums. Unsorted is the page you’re on the most, because it’s where you swipe to organize. Favorites are the photos you’ve starred in the Slidebox app or loved (done by tapping the heart icon) in your Photos app. Timeline is all of your photos in chronological order, and Albums are all of the albums you’ve added to Slidebox, whether new or ones added from the Photos app.

Once you give Slidebox a try, you’ll never want to organize your photos any other way. The main features of the app are completely free. If you want to remove ads, organize videos, pin an album to the top, plus get access to all new features, a one-time purchase of $ 2.99 will give you premium status and help support the developers of such a useful app.

Do you have a favorite app you want me to feature? Email me at appsaturday@iphonelife.com!

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The new Subaru Forester can tell if you’re sleepy or distracted

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Subaru isn't exactly known for developing emerging technologies for its vehicles, so we'll bet you'd never expect the automaker to equip the 2019 Forester with facial recognition technology. But that's exactly what it did — Subaru has announced at t…
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Google Play now tracks down which streaming service has the video you’re looking for (as long as it’s not Netflix)

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“Well, maybe it’s on Netflix. Um … did you check Hulu? What about Amazon?” While streaming services make it easy to dive right into your favorite shows, sometimes tracking down that program can be way more difficult than it needs to be. Maybe one service has the current season of the show you’re looking for, but past seasons are on another. And as licensing deals are signed and expire, shows may drift from one service to another.

Read More

Google Play now tracks down which streaming service has the video you’re looking for (as long as it’s not Netflix) was written by the awesome team at Android Police.

Android Police – Android news, reviews, apps, games, phones, tablets

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Firmware 5.0 could brick your Nintendo Switch if you’re using a third-party dock

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Nintendo’s recent firmware update to version 5.0 has fixed some vulnerabilities, but made some docks dangerously incompatible.

Shortly after Nintendo released its latest firmware, version 5.0, reports have come in that third-party docks are causing irreparable damage to the Switch, essentially “bricking” the device. If you’ve been using any other dock besides Nintendo’s official one (the one that comes with your Switch), you should stop using it right now, even if it hasn’t broken it yet.

Though most reports seem to confirm that it’s related to third-party docks, at least one person has reported that their portable battery charger had caused the issue.

To be clear, the issue is not specific to a particular brand of dock. I’ve read comments from people using the Nyko docking kit and the FastSnail docking kit.

Nintendo currently does not have a method for backing up game saves off of the Switch, so it’s important that you don’t do anything that might render your Switch inoperable. You might have to wipe your system, which would delete all of those many, many hours of grinding in Breath of the Wild.

iMore – Learn more. Be more.

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If You’re in San Francisco for GDC, Come to Our Party Tonight!

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We’ve been absolutely overwhelmed with GDC this week (as you can probably tell by the flood of content we’ve posted so far) but per TouchArcade tradition we’re having our own party tonight at 7:00 PM in the lobby of the Marriott Marquis in downtown San Francisco. We’re taking over the B55 Craft House which has been refreshed since last year and now has a dumb amount of beer on tap. Another neat thing about our party this year is that we’re sponsored by Jam City so we have a limited number of free drink tickets to give out at the event… So come early. I’ve got no idea what turn out is going to be like, but, the fewer people the better as that means more drink tickets for everyone! (But, hey, if it’s huge, that’s cool too.)

Everyone is invited, if you’re attending GDC or are just a fan of TouchArcade. If you love mobile games, our party is the best place to go at GDC to rub elbows with all sorts of mobile industry giants, developers of mobile classics, and more. Seriously, it’s a super fun time.

Come on down!


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