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11
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TechCrunch

januari 11, 2024

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Accesibility startup Augmental is working on head tracking and ‘silent speech’

Imagine a world where you can control your smartphone or laptop just by moving your head or subtly shifting your tongue — a future where voiceless communication becomes a reality. That’s exactly what Augmental has been working on, and it’s nothing short of awe-inspiring. Augmental is one of those startups that’s fantastically easy to cheer on — the company is going to bat making sure that people with disabilities can use computers in new and novel ways. TechCrunch caught up with them at CES 2024 in Las Vegas, and the company exclusively shared what they have coming down the pipe to make its products better.

“One of the new features we recently added to the mouthpad is head dragging and head control. Users can now move their heads to control the cursor, in addition to the tongue gestures we previously announced,” says Oscar Rosello, head of Design at Augmental, in an exclusive interview with TechCrunch. “It uses a gyroscope embedded in our smart dental retainer, which you hold in your mouth. You can then move your head to control the cursor on your phone, laptop or any other Bluetooth-enabled device.”

Silent speech

The other feature Augmental has been beavering away on in the lab is silent speech, which enables  users to form words without vocalizing them. Instead, the device captures the nuanced movements of the tongue to decipher the intended words. This technology can then be used to write, or sent through an audio generator to give a user who may not otherwise be able to speak a voice.

But Augmental doesn’t stop there. The dental device is also slated to feature bone conduction, offering users immediate feedback on their interactions.

“We have about 20 users currently using the device. One of our champion users, Keeley, uses it daily for schoolwork and it has proven to be life-changing for her. So that’s very exciting for us,” Rosello says. For its beta users, the device costs around $1,000 — but pricing details and availability details are coming soon. “We’re aiming to make it available in the U.S. this year, and hopefully worldwide soon.”

Beyond assisting people with disabilities, we believe there’s potential for the general population to use this device, especially as voice interfaces become more mainstream. This device could be a key player in that. The team envisions AR and VR applications. It could be a powerful tool for hands-free interaction while maintaining eye contact (unlike, say, eye tracking, where you need to look around).

When walking around CES, there’s always this question in my mind that goes “what’s the point of this?” — and seeing companies like Augmental is a refreshing antidote. May they find every success and figure out a way to help users who need this product sooner rather than later!

Read more about CES 2024 on TechCrunch

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