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Skin-Like Artificial Throat Could One Day Help Mute People ‘Speak’, Here's How

Researchers have developed a prototype artificial throat that could measure movements on human skin and convert them into sounds, but the problem is usage.

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Updated:July 26, 2019, 7:39 PM IST
Skin-Like Artificial Throat Could One Day Help Mute People ‘Speak’, Here's How
Image for representation | Credit: Reuters

Scientists are hopeful that a thin, wearable tattoo device developed by them will one day help mute people “speak.”

When attached to the neck, the temporary tattoo can transform throat movements into sounds.

“Most mute people cannot speak due to their vocal cord lesion. Herein, to assist mute people to “speak”, we proposed a wearable skinlike ultrasensitive artificial graphene throat (WAGT) that integrated both sound/motion detection and sound emission in single device,” researchers from China said in their study published by the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Detectors previously developed by researchers measure movements on human skin but typically can’t convert these motions into sounds due to the complex process of speech that involves both motions of the mouth and vibrations of folded tissues, called vocal cords, within the throat.

Even though researchers He Tian, Yi Yang, Tian-Ling Ren and colleagues developed a prototype artificial throat with both capabilities, they were faced with the problem of the device not being comfortable enough to be worn for longer periods as it would be required to be taped to the skin.

They then began working on a “thinner, skin-like artificial throat that would adhere to the neck like a temporary tattoo.”

The researchers laser-scribed graphene on a thin sheet of polyvinyl alcohol film.

The flexible device measured about twice the size of a person’s thumbnail and the researchers used water to attach the film to the skin over a volunteer’s throat and connected it with electrodes to a small armband that contained a circuit board, microcomputer, power amplifier and decoder.

When the volunteer noiselessly imitated the throat motions of speech, the device converted these movements into emitted sounds, such as the words “OK” and “No.” The researchers now hope that mute people can be trained to generate signals with their throats that the device would translate into speech.

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