By Anne Quito
At the TED conference last week, MIT Media Lab’s Arnav Kapurshowed that we might be one step closer to becoming cyborgs. For the first time, the 24-year old intelligence augmentation researcher conducted a live public demo of AlterEgo, his wearable device that allows users to access the internet or any computing device without typing or using our voice.
With the help of researcher Eric Wadkins, he showed how one could search the internet silently. “What is the weather in Vancouver right now?,” Kapur asked aloud. Wadkins then silently repeated Kapur’s query internally and about 15 seconds later, he correctly reported back: “It’s 50 degrees and rainy here in Vancouver.”
Kapur explained that AlterEgo works by picking up the user’s internal vocalizations—normally undetectable neuromuscular signals from the tongue and the back of the palate—and translating them to computer commands. Signals are transmitted through a “sticker,” as Kapur describes the silicone device, worn along the user’s neck and jawline, and the answers are fed through an ear piece.
Though the 2018 prototype of AlterEgo made the wearer look like he has a head injury, Kapur said they’re focused on refining the wearable to the point that they become unnoticeable. Indeed, the design he showed at TED was nearly undetectable apart from the wire coming out of Eric’s ear.