Mind Over Matter: The Breakthrough Technology Turning Thoughts into Text
In a recent demonstration at the Lisbon offices of enterprise language translation services startup Unbabel, founder and CEO Vasco Pedro showcased a revolutionary brain-to-computer interface that could change the way we communicate. The technology, dubbed "Halo," uses an EMG (electromyography) system to measure muscle response or electrical activity in response to a nerve’s stimulation of the muscle. This system, combined with generative AI, allows for silent communication through thought alone.
The journey to this breakthrough began four years ago when Unbabel, now a thriving startup with $90 million in VC funding and annual revenues of around $50 million, began exploring brain-to-communication interfaces. The innovation team, led by Paulo Dimas, VP of Product Innovation, initially looked into EEG (electroencephalogram) systems but found them too noisy. They then turned to EMG systems, which proved to be less noisy and more reliable. By placing sensors in an armband, the team was able to measure muscle responses and correlate them to real words. These signals were then fed into a personalized LLM (Language Model), which could generate a fully-fledged response.
During the demonstration, Pedro received a question via text message, thought of the answer, and the LLM expanded his thought into a complete response, which was then sent back via text. The system is not invasive and only records what the user wants to say, giving the wearer full control over their output. The potential for this technology is vast, but there are still hurdles to overcome.
Unbabel's Halo is already being endorsed by the major ALS association in Portugal, and the company plans to deploy it to ALS users by Christmas this year. The technology could also be beneficial for other patients who struggle to type, such as those with Cerebral Palsy. The current version of Halo can achieve around 20 words per minute of equivalent communication, a significant improvement over the two words per minute that Stephen Hawking could achieve with his communication device.
- Unbabel's Halo uses an EMG system combined with generative AI to enable silent communication through thought alone.
- The technology was demonstrated at Unbabel's Lisbon office, where CEO Vasco Pedro showcased the ability to communicate silently via text.
- The system is non-invasive and only records what the user wants to say, giving the wearer full control over their output.
- Unbabel's Halo is already being endorsed by the major ALS association in Portugal and is planned to be deployed to ALS users by Christmas this year.
- The current version of Halo can achieve around 20 words per minute of equivalent communication, a significant improvement over existing communication devices for those with speech impairments.