Some people can’t speak and others don’t want to speak out loud in certain situations, but now your silent words can be heard.


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Some people lack the power of speech, others find themselves in noisy settings where speaking voice commands out loud just doesn’t work, and others just don’t want the people around them to hear whatever it is they’re saying. And while all these scenarios have been problematic for privacy conscious people in the past as we see more gadgets that let people talk silently to whoever it is on the other end of the phone now another solutions emerged in the form of EchoSpeech glasses which read their user’s silently spoken words.


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The experimental eyewear is being developed by a team at Cornell University’s Smart Computer Interfaces for Future Interactions (SciFi) Lab.

Two downwards-facing miniature speakers are mounted on the underside of the frame beneath one lens, while two mini microphones are located beneath the other. The speakers emit inaudible sound waves, which are reflected off the wearer’s moving mouth and back up to the mics like sonar.

Those echoes are then analyzed in real time by a deep learning algorithm on a wirelessly linked smartphone. That algorithm was trained to associate specific echoes with specific mouth movements, which are in turn associated with specific silently spoken commands.


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EchoSpeech is currently capable of recognizing 31 such commands with about 95% accuracy, and only requires a few minutes of training for each user. And importantly for people with privacy concerns, the system doesn’t incorporate any cameras, nor does it send any information to the internet.

What’s more, because it doesn’t utilize a power-hungry camera, it can run for up to 10 hours on one charge of its battery. By contrast, the researchers claim that experimental camera-based systems are only good for about 30 minutes of use per charge.

The university is now working on commercializing the technology.

“For people who cannot vocalize sound, this silent speech technology could be an excellent input for a voice synthesizer,” said doctoral student Ruidong Zhang, who is leading the study. “It could give patients their voices back.”


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The SciFi Lab previously developed a somewhat similar system called EarIO, which uses a sonar-equipped ear-worn device to capture the wearer’s facial expressions – although it’s utilized mainly to create digital avatars. That said, the University at Buffalo’s EarCommand system does read silently spoken words via an earbud which detects distinctive ear canal deformations produced by specific mouth movements.

EchoSpeech is demonstrated in the video above.

Source: Cornell University

About author

Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers” and a “Young Kurzweil,” is the founder and CEO of the World Futures Forum and the 311 Institute, a global Futures and Deep Futures consultancy working between the dates of 2020 to 2070, and is an award winning futurist, and author of “Codex of the Future” series. Regularly featured in the global media, including AP, BBC, Bloomberg, CNBC, Discovery, RT, Viacom, and WIRED, Matthew’s ability to identify, track, and explain the impacts of hundreds of revolutionary emerging technologies on global culture, industry and society, is unparalleled. Recognised for the past six years as one of the world’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an international speaker who helps governments, investors, multi-nationals and regulators around the world envision, build and lead an inclusive, sustainable future. A rare talent Matthew’s recent work includes mentoring Lunar XPrize teams, re-envisioning global education and training with the G20, and helping the world’s largest organisations envision and ideate the future of their products and services, industries, and countries. Matthew's clients include three Prime Ministers and several governments, including the G7, Accenture, Aon, Bain & Co, BCG, Credit Suisse, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deloitte, E&Y, GEMS, Huawei, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, Lego, McKinsey, PWC, Qualcomm, SAP, Samsung, Sopra Steria, T-Mobile, and many more.

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