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AI helped a stroke patient speak for the first time in 18 years

Published Aug 23rd, 2023 6:54PM EDT
Neuralink surgically implanted computer components onto the surface of a brain
Image: AYDINOZON/Adobe

A 47-year-old woman named Ann has found her voice again, thanks to the efforts of an AI brain implant. Ann, who suffered a stroke several years ago, has been unable to speak for 18 years. However, with the help of several electrodes connected to her brain tissue, Ann was able to speak again through a digital avatar, new research highlights.

Detailed findings on the implant and how it helped Ann are published in the journal Nature. According to the study, researchers attached 253 electrodes to Ann’s brain over a critical region for speech. The electrodes then intercepted brain signals that would normally control the muscles in her jaw, tongue, larynx, and face had she not suffered from the brain stroke 18 years ago.

After the AI brain implant was implemented, Ann worked with the researchers to teach the system’s AI algorithm how to detect the brain signals that it received, including unique signals that helped provide various speech sounds. The computer learned 39 distinctive sounds, which were then used with a ChatGPT-style language model to translate into sentences, according to The Guardian.

From there, the researchers used the sounds and signals to control a digital avatar with a voice that had been personalized to sound like Ann’s voice before her injury. The technology isn’t perfect, but it did show some success, only failing to decode 28 percent of the words incorrectly in a test run that involved more than 500 phrases.

The AI brain implant could also translate brain-to-text at a rate of around 78 words per minute. That’s slightly slower than the typical 110-150 words per minute spoken in a natural conversation. Despite the shortcomings, the researchers believe the latest advances in speed, accuracy, and sophistication will only help this technology improve going forward, allowing more people like Ann the chance to speak again.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.