An ad with someone telling you to quit smoking in the cold robotic voice of a mechanical larynx is powerful imagery. This new artificial larnyx could screw up that whole angle for anti-smoking advocacy groups.
The system utilises a palatometer, a device traditionally used in speech therapy, to track the movement of the tongue. A cluster of 118 pressure sensors collect the data and send it off to be reproduced by a small sound sythesizer that's kept on the person. The device can also be calibrated to recognise inflection, which helps to generate a voice that is far more natural than the raspy or robotic sounds of current devices. Plus, it doesn't require any surgical implants.
Of course, several problems need to be addressed before this technology is ready for prime time. Accuracy can be as high as 94.4 percent, but the library of recognisable words needs to be vastly increased. The system also needs to be converted to wireless and the processing speed needs to be improved. At the moment, there is a one second delay between when the word is mouthed and the sound is produced—making it seem like you are acting in a bad kung-fu movie dubbed in English. The good news is that it probably won't be long before those issues are corrected. [Technology Review via PopSci]