From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Synthetic Specch
Mains level : Read the attached story
- Scientists have created a virtual vocal tract – completes with lips, jaw and tongue – that can generate natural-sounding synthetic speech by using brain signals.
- The brain-machine interface is created by neuroscientists at University of California, San Francisco in the US.
- The apparatus comprised:
- two “neural network” machine learning algorithms:
- a decoder that transforms brain activity patterns produced during speech into movements of the virtual vocal tract, and
- a synthesizer that converts these vocal tract movements into a synthetic approximation of the participant’s voice.
- The algorithms produced sentences that were understandable to hundreds of human listeners in crowdsourced transcription tests.
How it works
- Patients are implanted with one or two electrode arrays: stamp-size pads, containing hundreds of tiny electrodes that were placed on the surface of the brain.
- As each participant recited hundreds of sentences, the electrodes recorded the firing patterns of neurons in the motor cortex.
- The researchers associated those patterns with the subtle movements of the patient’s lips, tongue, larynx and jaw that occur during natural speech.
- The team then translated those movements into spoken sentences.Native English speakers were asked to listen to the sentences to test the fluency of the virtual voices.
- As much as 70 percent of what was spoken by the virtual system was intelligible, the study found.
Utility of the project
- The interface could one day restore the voices of people who have lost the ability to speak due to paralysis and other forms of neurological damage.
- Many people with epilepsy do poorly on medication and opt to undergo brain surgery.
- Stroke, traumatic brain injury, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis often result in an irreversible loss of the ability to speak.
- We can hope that individuals with speech impairments will regain the ability to freely speak their minds and reconnect with the world around them coming days.
- The biggest clinical challenge may be finding suitable patients: strokes that disable a person’s speech often also damage or wipe out the areas of the brain that support speech articulation.
- Still, the field of brain-machine interface technology, as it is known, is advancing rapidly, with teams around the world adding refinements that might be tailored to specific injuries.
- Before operating, doctors must first locate the “hot spot” in each person’s brain where the seizures originate which may take weeks.