Of the 43 muscles that comprise the human face, only a few are actually important to speaking. And yet replicating the movements of the mouth by mechanical means always seems to end up only partly convincing. Servos and linkages can only approximate the complex motions the lips, cheeks, jaw, and tongue are capable of. Still, there are animatronics out there that make a good go at the job, of which this somewhat creepy mechanical mouth is a fine example.
Why exactly [Will Cogley] felt the need to build a mechanical maw with terrifying and fairly realistic fangs is anyone’s guess. Recalling his lifelike disembodied animatronic heart build, it just seems like he pursues these builds for the challenge of it all. But if you thought the linkages of the heart were complex, wait till you see what’s needed to make this mouth move realistically. [Will] has stuffed this pie hole with nine servos, all working together to move the jaw up and down, push and pull the corners of the mouth, raise and lower the lips, and bounce the tongue around.
It all seems very complex, but [Will] explains that he actually simplified the mechanical design to concentrate more on the software side, which is a text-to-speech movement translator. Text input is translated to phonemes, each of which corresponds to a mouth shape that the servos can create. It’s pretty realistic although somewhat disturbing, especially when the mouth is placed in an otherwise cuddly stuffed bear that serenades you from the nightstand; check out the second video below for that.
[Will] has been doing a bang-up job on animatronics lately, from 3D-printed eyeballs to dexterous mechatronic hands. We’re looking forward to whatever he comes up with next — we think.
Continue reading “This Animatronic Mouth Mimics Speech With Servos”
The field of Augmentative and Alternative Communciation (AAC) covers communication methods used by those who are unable to otherwise produce or comprehend spoken or written language. Many will be familiar with the speech synthesizer used by Stephen Hawking as just one such example of AAC technology. [Christina Hunger] is a speech language pathologist, and is intimately familiar with such tools. She decided to use these techniques to teach her dog, Stella, to talk.
[Christina] began her project by implementing a button board which triggers various speech samples when triggered. There are plenty of typical words that a dog may wish to use, like beach, park, and ball – as well as words describing concepts, such as where, later, and come. Over time, she has observed Stella using the button board in various ways, that she claims indicate a deeper understanding and use of language than would normally be ascribed to a dog.
From the outset, [Christina] has been intentional in her methods, being sure to only demonstrate the use of the board to Stella, rather than simply pressing the buttons for her. The experiment has many similarities to the case of Koko the gorilla, known for learning symbols from American Sign Language. The project is also documented on Instagram, where she films Stella using the device and gives interpretations of the meaning of Stella’s button pressing.
Attemping to communicate on a higher level with animals has long been a mysterious and complex pursuit; one which we’re sure to see more of as various technologies continue to improve. We’d love to see a broader scientific study on the use of AAC tools to “talk” to animals. In such matters, context and interpretation play a large role, and thus it’s difficult to truly gauge the quality of understanding an animal may actually have. More research would be great to shed light on these techniques. Video after the break.
Continue reading “Training A Dog To “Speak” With A Sound Board”
One of the things that makes us human is our ability to communicate. However, a stroke or other medical impairment can take that ability away without warning. Although Stephen Hawking managed to do great things with a computer-aided voice, it took a lot of patience and technology to get there. Composing an e-mail or an utterance for a speech synthesizer using a tongue stick or by blinking can be quite frustrating since most people can only manage about ten words a minute. Conventional speech averages about 150 words per minute. However, scientists recently reported in the journal Nature that they have successfully decoded brain signals into speech directly, which could open up an entirely new world for people who need assistance communicating.
The tech is still only lab-ready, but they claim to be able to produce mostly intelligible sentences using the technique. Previous efforts have only managed to produce single syllables, not entire sentences.
Continue reading “Scientists Create Speech From Brain Signals”
At the University of Oxford, [Jen Chesters] conducts therapy sessions with thirty men in a randomized clinical trial to test the effects of tDCS on subjects who stutter. Men are approximately four times as likely to stutter and the sex variability of the phenomenon is not being tested. In the randomized sessions, the men and [Jen] are unaware if any current is being applied, or a decoy buzzer is used.
Transcranial Direct Current, tDCS, applies a small current to the brain with the intent of exciting or biasing the region below the electrode. A credit-card sized card is used to apply the current. Typically, tDCS ranges from nine to eighteen volts at two milliamps or less. The power passing through a person’s brain is roughly on par with the kind of laser pointer you should not point straight into your eyeball and is considered “safe,” with quotation marks.
A week after the therapy, conversational fluency and the ability to recite written passages shows improvement over the placebo group which does not show improvement. Six weeks after the therapy, there is still measurable improvement in the ability to read written passages, but sadly, conversational gains are lost.
Many people are on the fence about tDCS and we urge our citizen scientists to exercise all the caution you would expect when sending current through the brain. Or, just don’t do that.
In the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, HAL 9000 — the neurotic computer — had a birthday in 1992 (for some reason, in the book it is 1997). In the late 1960s, that date sounded impossibly far away, but now it seems like a distant memory. The only thing is, we are only now starting to get computers with voice I/O that are practical and even they are a far cry from HAL.
[GeraldF6] built an Arduino-based clock. That’s nothing new but thanks to a MOVI board (ok, shield), this clock has voice input and output as you can see in the video below. Unlike most modern speech-enabled devices, the MOVI board (and, thus, the clock) does not use an external server in the cloud or any remote processing at all. On the other hand, the speech quality isn’t what you might expect from any of the modern smartphone assistants that talk. We estimate it might be about 1/9 the power of the HAL 9000.
Continue reading “Arduino Clock Is HAL 1000”
[Saurabh] wanted a quick project to demonstrate how easy it can be to build devices that are voice controlled. His latest Instructable does just that using an Arduino and Visual Basic .Net.
[Saurabh] decided to build a voice controlled lamp. He knew he wanted it to change colors as well as be energy-efficient. It also had to be easy to control. The obvious choice was to use an RGB LED. The LED on its own wouldn’t be very interesting. He needed something to diffuse the light, like a lampshade. [Saurabh] decided to start with an empty glass jar. He filled the jar with gel wax, which provides a nice surface to diffuse the light.
The RGB LED was mounted underneath the jar’s screw-on cover. [Saurabh] soldered a 220 ohm current limiting resistor to each of the three anodes of the LED. A hole was drilled in the cap so he’d have a place to run the wires. The LED was then hooked up to an Arduino Leonardo.
The Arduino sketch has several built-in functions to set all of the colors, and also fade. [Saurabh] then wrote a control interface using Visual Basic .Net. The interface allows you to directly manipulate the lamp, but it also has built-in voice recognition functionality. This allows [Saurabh] to use his voice to change the color of the lamp, turn it off, or initiate a fading routing. You can watch a video demonstration of the voice controls below. Continue reading “Voice Controlled RGB LED Lamp”
This is the under-the-hood view of the keyboard for the Voder (Voice Operating Demonstrator), the first electronic device capable of generating continuous human speech. It accomplishes this feat through a series of keys that generate the syllables, plosives, and affricatives normally produced by the human larynx and shaped by the throat and tongue. This week’s film is a picture montage paired with the audio from the demonstration of the Voder at the 1939 World’s Fair.
The Voder was created by one [Homer Dudley] at Bell Laboratories. He did so in conjunction with the Vocoder, which analyzes human-generated speech for encrypted transfer and re-synthesizes it on the other end. [Dudley] spent over 40 years researching speech at Bell Laboratories. His development of both the Voder and the Vocoder were instrumental in the SIGSALY project which aimed to deliver encrypted voice communication to the theatres of WWII.
Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: The Voder From Bell Labs”