How many of you remember the use of a small and throat-mounted device that was used in Mission Impossible movies for altering the voice of its user? As it happens, Chinese scientists have managed to come up with something that is similar and could one day enable the mute to speak as well – in a manner of speaking. The device is known as the Wearable Artificial Graphene Throat (WAGT).
A team of scientists belonging to Beijing’s Tsinghua University started the process by developing a device that had to be taped to the throat skin of the user. As expected, it was far too uncomfortable to be used for any extended period of time. This led them to change the device into a thin and flexible wearable that can be applied to the throat of the user by wetting it with water much akin to how temporary tattoos are applied.
The Wearable Artificial Graphene Throat was manufactured using laser-scribing graphene that was applied to a thin sheet of polyvinyl alcohol film. The sheet measures only 0.6 by 1.2 inches (15 by 30 mm) in its current form and has been hard-wired to an armband that houses the circuit board, power amplifier, decoder, and a microcomputer.
When the user imitates the unique vocal cord and larynx movements that are needed for speaking a particular word without making any noise; the Wearable Artificial Graphene Throat detects the movements from the skin and decodes them to ascertain what word the user is trying to speak. The armband then ‘speaks’ the word in a synthetic voice. Up until now, the Wearable Artificial Graphene Throat has been trained to recognize only some of the basic words such as ‘hello’, ‘ok’, and ‘no’.
The research on Wearable Artificial Graphene Throat was led by Yi Yang, He Tian, and Tian-Ling Ren. It has been published in the journal ACS Nano.