We have completed maintenance on DiscoverMagazine.com and action may be required on your account. Learn More

Throat Talkin'

By Susan Kruglinski
Jul 25, 2004 5:00 AMNov 12, 2019 6:40 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Scientists at NASA’s Ames Research Center are developing a way to communicate silently, using only the throat and tongue. Talking without moving the mouth is called subvocal speech; you may do it unconsciously when you read or think. Using sensors attached to the throat, Chuck Jorgensen of NASA can detect the nerve signals that fire during subvocal speech and translate them into words. So far the system recognizes only a limited vocabulary, but it works. The goal is to facilitate communication in situations where ambient noise, the need for privacy, or physical impediments make it impractical to speak out loud. Astronauts, for example, often have trouble speaking due to pressure changes in the vocal cavity and swelling of the throat. “We are looking at the direct connection from nervous system to machine, bypassing the requirement for the physical body,” says Jorgensen, who heads NASA’s Extension of the Human Senses program. “There is no visible outside movement at all; I think that’s kind of cool.” If he can perfect his subvocal speech reader, people ranging from spies to stroke victims may agree.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.