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Watch: The cutting edge of neuroscience

Intrigued by Elon Musk’s announcement that a chip had been successfully implanted into a pig’s brain to read its brainwaves, Chris Bourn explored the future of neuroscience in issue #40 of Delayed Gratification.

New BCI (brain computer interface) technology can translate brain activity into movement and speech, opening up a future in which many debilitating afflictions could potentially be overcome – but also one in which our internal monologues could be monetised.

One extraordinary example at the cutting edge of BCI has been created by a group led by neurosurgeon Edward Chang at the University of California in San Francisco (UCSF). It’s an interface that could, in theory, use brain activity to power a virtual larynx, generating natural-sounding speech and enabling real-time conversations between people who are unable to speak.

This has produced synthesized vocalisations that, as BCI expert Dr Christian Herff says, while “not perfectly intelligible, sound very, very similar,” to the target expressions – imagine a drunk android slurring “Shipbuilding is a fascinating process”, with perhaps just a hint of AI sarcasm. See the larynx in action below – and pick up a copy of the new issue to read the feature in full.

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