Translating Human Speech with Deep-Learning AI
AI technology continues to push the boundaries of what human minds can achieve. Instead of sci-fi dystopias and nightmares of cyborg overlords, neuro-engineers instead developed a new integration of the human brain and AI systems meant for the betterment of people who need it the most.
Headed by Dr. Nima Mesgarani, researchers at Columbia University published a study that found AI playing an integral role in restoring speech to people who are unable to speak, including sufferers of ALS or those recovering from a stroke. Using data gathered from a sample of epilepsy patients, Dr. Mesgarani and his colleague, Dr. Ashesh Dinesh Mehta, trained a neural network to recognise patterns and essentially translate brainwaves onto a voice synthesiser, or a vocoder.
Mesgarani and Mehta’s study is on a similar vein as that of typing a statement on Google Translate and clicking the Listen button. Letters, symbols and numbers are converted first into lines of code into a vocoder. In this case, these lines of code are ‘translated’ from the pure electric impulses that the brain produces as we think.
Deep-learning AI identifies patterns from data inputs, transforms that into code, and consequently produces clear, understandable speech.
Voice synthesisers for patients with speech impairments are usually related to the likes of the late Stephen Hawking, who was afflicted with a motor-neuron disease. However, using brain-computer interface (BCI) technology can make everyday communication more accessible.
Smart devices permeate society so deeply through smart phones, computers, cameras and, in recent years, even suitcases. The interface between humans and AI is not straight out of the year 3000, and BCI technology transcends illness. It has been at the forefront of neuro-AI research, particularly in recent years by the likes of Facebook and Elon Musk’s Neuralink. In an exciting era of evolution, Casper & Casper are eager to watch the advancement and integration of AI and BCI technology, and how both are enhancing the quality of life as a crucial aspect of human recovery and healing.