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On this phone call, no one can hear you talk [Updated]

March 18, 2010 | 11:41 am

In the future you may only need to move your lips. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times.
We’ve closely monitored how words spoken into a phone can be instantly translated into various languages. (See David Sarno’s recent article about Google's new phone application.) What you may not know yet, however, is that researchers have now developed a way for people to communicate by speaking into a phone silently by simply moving their lips.

The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany is behind the new developments that are enabling  people to hold phone conversations in complete silence.

This borderline telepathy-meets-technology is no simple feat, requiring electromyographic sensors to be attached to the face to measure the movement of facial muscles related to speech. Those movements are then converted to sound on the other end of the line.

[Updated: We received a picture from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology of what the sensors look like. See below.]


Though it’s not yet at a stage where the masses can use, the potential ramifications of the development are incredible. In addition to opening up major opportunities for speech-impaired individuals, the ability to "say" a Social Security number over the phone or have a conversation with a family member in the middle of the office in complete privacy may be closer than we think.

-- Zohreen Adamjee

Photo: Two subjects connected to electromyographic sensors that measure  movement of facial muscles related to speech. Credit: Deutsche Messe Hannover