A Voice for the Voiceless

Ambient gave its first live demonstration of the Audeo, which enables voiceless communication either over the phone or face-to-face. The Audeo is targeted toward people who’ve lost the ability to speak due to injury or neurological disorders such as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, cerebral palsy, or Parkinson’s. 

A wireless sensor attaches around the user’s neck like a collar and picks up the neurological activity the brain sends to the vocal cords, then digitizes the information and turns it into synthesized speech. In a video demonstration presented on the Texas Instruments Web site,   Ambient CEO and co-founder Michael Callahan described the activity as "a step above thinking and a step below speaking."  During the demo, Callahan has a voiceless conversation with Texas Instruments’ senior vice president of application-specific products Mike Hames. 

"Are you busy?" Hames asked a mute Callahan.

Five seconds later, a synthesized voice responded: "I’m kind of in the middle of something."

When Hames asked if Callahan was able to meet members of the press, there was a 10-second delay before the synthesized voice said: "Yeah, definitely."

While the system’s response time and vocabulary might be limiting, previous incarnations of the Audeo only allowed it to say Yes or No.  

"Historically, every time it becomes easier for people to communicate, people become more connected and the interactions enrich people’s lives,"  Callahan, who developed the technology while he was a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said in a press release.  "It is our hope that the Audeo will allow many more profound ideas to change the world through communication."

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