Scientists Create Speech From Brain Signals

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.

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Help With Stuttering Could Come From Electricity

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.

Arduino Clock Is HAL 1000

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.

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Voice Controlled RGB LED Lamp

Voice Controlled Lamp

[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”

Retrotechtacular: The Voder from Bell Labs

voder

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.

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Codec2: GNU low-bitrate speech codec

Low bandwidth speech compression is a desirable concept for amateur radio enthusiasts. Unfortunately there isn’t a great open-source option out there, but that’s changing with the low-bitrate speech compression package called Codec2. It manages to transmit and decode at 2550 bits per second with results comparable to proprietary solutions like MELP and very near the initial goal of 2400 bit/s. [David Rowe], who spearheads the project, has been simulating communications using a Linux box and has posted audio snippets at the first link above for comparison. They’re looking for feedback and testing so if you interested give them a helping hand.

[Thanks Robomo]

Get started with speech recognition

Speech recognition makes it easier for us to be lazy with our devices – or perhaps set up the coolest voice-controlled project around. After the voice controlled home automation post, we received a lot of emails asking “how can I make it recognize my voice?”. Whether your project involves a PC or an Android phone, a high-budget, or no budget at all, there is a solution out there.  Join us after the break for a complete set of instructions on setting up speech recognition, and some of the best software options out there to meet your needs.

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