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Would you allow a machine to read your mind?

Researchers from the University of California have developed a machine that is said to be capable of reading minds. The device works by interpreting consonants and vowels in the human brain and displaying it as text.

David Moses, who leads the team of researchers, says the machine is 90% accurate. The team hopes that their technology will be able to help paralyzed patients, as well as those who suffered various conditions where they are unable to move or speak.

Artificial Intelligence and Neural Signals

The research was published in the Journal of Neural Engineering. The machines works by reading electrodes which have been implanted in the brain. The system is connected to a computer which translates the electrical signals which are later interpreted and appear as words in the computer screen.

Will there be no more secrets in the world?

Moses was quoted in an interview with the Sun: “The machine registers and analyses the combination of vowels and consonants that we use when constructing a sentence in our brains. It interprets these sentences based on neural signals and can translate them into text in real time.”

Apart from predictive text, the machine also uses highly advanced artificial intelligence (AI) allows it to interpret words that are not in its database.

“No published work has demonstrated real-time classification of sentences from neural signals. Given the performance exhibited by [the machine] in this work and its capacity for expansion, we are confident in its ability to serve as a platform for the proposed speech prosthetic device,” Moses said in the same article.

Stephen Hawking’s Awesome Machine

The closest working example to a “mind reading machine” was the system used by the late physicist Stephen Hawking to communicate. Although it did not really read his mind, it relied on predictive text and the slightest cheek movements to come up with a series of words.

Prof. Hawking, considered as one of the most brilliant minds of this century, was diagnosed with motor neuron disease, more popularly known in the US as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS.

His speech system was developed by Intel and the company had released it as an open-source code in the hope that it can be modified and expanded to assist patients with other disabilities.

Hawking’s machine is composed of three parts. There’s the input from an infrared sensor or webcam that reads and detects the slightest facial movements. The developers initially tried to use eye movements but it didn’t work since Hawking’s eyes were already droopy. Then there’s the interface that chooses and predicts letters to form words, and finally, the auto-complete software that predicts what he is typing.

The professor then uses a separate synthesizer to lend a voice to his words. This was how he was able to give interviews, lectures, and even talks during conventions and gatherings.

The new machine developed at the University of California appears to be more advanced since it directly taps into brain electrodes. It could also be enhanced further and hooked to a synthesizer to add a voice to the words read from the patient’s brain.

While the bold idea is seen as a breakthrough in the medical field where it could have a myriad of applications, the downside is that the “mind reading” machine could unwittingly give people’s secrets away.

Let’s hope privacy issues don’t get in the way of bold innovations.