Reading your mind: There’s an AI that can translate your thoughts


Artificial intelligence is getting smarter and smarter.

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have developed technology that can read a person’s mind in real-time.

The team of scientists put three people in MRI machines with a new AI system called a semantic decoder. Basically, it can read and write stories that people have in their minds. This was developed to help people who aren’t able to physically speak to communicate again.

Unlike other language decoding systems in the works, this AI doesn’t require subjects to have surgical impacts. It just works with the fMRI scanner to measure a person’s blood flow.

The AI was trained by having a person listen to podcasts while in the scanner for hours. The tech wasn’t able to retell the story, but it was able to catch the gist of what was being told.

In the experiments, a participant was listening to the words, “I don’t have my driver’s license yet.” This was transcribed by the machine into “She has not even started to learn to drive yet.”

“Our system really works at the level of ideas, of semantics, of meaning,” said Alexander Huth, a neuroscientist with the team. “We are decoding something that is deeper than language, and then converting it into language.”

With some people worried about how this technology can be used to eavesdrop on their thoughts in the future, Jerry Tang, the lead author of the study, said that they are taking these concerns seriously.

“We want to dedicate a lot of time moving forward to try to avoid [the use of the tech for bad purposes]. I think, right now, while the technology is in such an early state, it’s important to be proactive and give a head-start on, for one, enacting policies that protect people’s mental privacy, giving people a right to their thoughts and their brain data,” he said.

“We want to make sure that people only use these when they want to, and that it helps them.”

photo from: Nolan Zunk/Univesity of Texas at Austin

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