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AI-assisted wearable device for speaking

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AI-assisted wearable device for speaking

A new AI-assisted device has been developed to help people with dysfunctional vocal chords to speak.

The soft, thin, stretchy device can be attached to the skin outside the throat and is able to detect movement in a person’s larynx muscles. The device translates those signals into audible speech with the assistance of machine-learning technology.

According to the researchers it does this with nearly 95% accuracy.

The device has been developed by a team of UCLA engineers, led by Jun Chen, an assistant professor of bioengineering at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering. The advance is detailed this week in the journal Nature Communications.

The patch

The tiny device is made up of two components. The first, is a self-powered sensing component, detects and converts signals generated by muscle movements into high-fidelity, analysable electrical signals; these electrical signals are then translated into speech signals using a machine-learning algorithm. The other, an actuation component, turns those speech signals into the desired voice expression.

The two components each contain two layers: a layer of biocompatible silicone compound polydimethylsiloxane, or PDMS, with elastic properties, and a magnetic induction layer made of copper induction coils. Sandwiched between the two components is a fifth layer containing PDMS mixed with micromagnets, which generates a magnetic field.

Utilizing a soft magnetoelastic sensing mechanism developed by Chen’s team in 2021, the device is capable of detecting changes in the magnetic field when it is altered as a result of mechanical forces — in this case, the movement of laryngeal muscles. The embedded serpentine induction coils in the magnetoelastic layers help generate high-fidelity electrical signals for sensing purposes.

Measuring 1.2 inches on each side, the device weighs about 7 grams and is just 0.06 inch thick. With double-sided biocompatible tape, it can easily adhere to an individual’s throat near the location of the vocal cords and can be reused by reapplying tape as needed.

“Existing solutions such as handheld electro-larynx devices and tracheoesophageal- puncture procedures can be inconvenient, invasive or uncomfortable,” said Chen who leads the Wearable Bioelectronics Research Group at UCLA, and has been named one the world’s most highly cited researchers five years in a row.

“This new device presents a wearable, non-invasive option capable of assisting patients in communicating during the period before treatment and during the post-treatment recovery period for voice disorders.”

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