Controlling your gadgets by talking to them is so 2018. In the future, you won’t even have to move your lips.

A prototype device called AlterEgo, created by MIT Media Lab graduate student Arnav Kapur, is already making this possible. With Kapur’s device—a 3-D-printed plastic doodad that looks kind of like a skinny white banana attached to the side of his head—he can flip through TV channels, change the colors of lightbulbs, make expert chess moves, solve complicated arithmetic problems, and, as he recently showed a 60 Minutes crew, order a pizza, all without saying a word or lifting a finger.

It can be used to let people communicate silently and unobtrusively with each other, too. “I do feel like a cyborg, but in the best sense possible,” he says of his experience with the device, which he built as a research project.

AlterEgo does not read minds, though it may sound that way. Rather, it picks up on the itty-bitty electrical signals produced by small movements of our facial and neck muscles when we silently read or talk to ourselves.

AlterEgo’s electrodes capture these signals and send them via Bluetooth to a computer, where they can be decoded by algorithms and then acted on (“Turn on the light,” for example). The system includes bone conduction headphones to give you feedback and let you know (in a computerized voice) what other AlterEgo wearers are trying to tell you, without blocking your ears. Read more from…

thumbnail courtesy of