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Speech Vocalization using sEMG and the OpenBCI Cyton

Our latest sponsorship update is from a team at the Institute of Engineering, in Kathmandu, Nepal. Click here for details on how to apply to the OpenBCI Sponsorship Program.

1. What are you making?

This project intends to build a system that is able to extract surface electromyography (sEMG) signals from inner speech and use them to interact with a remote workstation.

To fulfill the objectives of this project, the faint sEMG signals generated by the motion of articulatory muscles need to be detected, amplified, and transmitted wirelessly to a computing device. At the receiving station, the detected signals undergo preprocessing whereby prominent features of the subvocal speech are isolated and fed to a machine learning model. The model is trained extensively with a locally created dataset consisting of multiple recordings of sEMG signals obtained via internal articulation of selected English words.

For the initial phase of this project, the system will be tested by displaying real-time non-voiced English words on a monitor. More complex contactless and voiceless human-computer interactions will then be attempted by interacting with intelligent systems such as Cortana, Google Assistant, Siri, and Alexa to obtain user desired actions on smart phones and smart watches.

Figure 1: Sketch of Experimental Setup

2. How are OpenBCI tools being applied?

Non-voiced speech causes minuscule motion in the tongue and selected facial muscles. The neuromuscular movement results in electrical activity which is captured using the dedicated hardware provided by OpenBCI.

Gold Cup Electrodes consisting of passive gold plated electrodes attached to ribbon cables are used to sample muscle activity. In order to increase electrical conductivity between the facial skin and the electrodes, a special Ten20 paste is applied. The electrodes are interfaced with the Cyton Biosensing Board which relays the EMG signals to a computer using the OpenBCI USB dongle.

Figure 2: Researcher wearing Electrodes interfaced to Cyton Board
Figure 3: Electrodes, Cyton Board, and the OpenBCI USB Dongle

3. Why is this research important?

This project is at the forefront of developing a novel human-machine interface. In the long-run, the concept explored in this research work will be applicable in the medical field as well as in the defense and security industry.

As an example, the outcome of our research can aid patients suffering from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), by providing them with an alternative mechanism of expressing themselves and interacting with the world around them. Similarly, intelligence agencies and military operations requiring silent and covert communication will benefit from the idea explored in this investigation.

4. Who is involved in this project?

Dinesh Baniya Kshatri
Rabin Nepal
Rhimesh Lwagun
Sanjay Rijal
Upendra Subedi

Asst. Prof. Dinesh Baniya Kshatri: Principal investigator of the project and assistant professor in the department of Electronics and Computer Engineering at the Institute of Engineering, Thapthali Campus, Kathmandu, Nepal. He received his M.Sc. degree in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University, USA in 2011, M. Eng. degree in Electrical Engineering from Princeton University, USA in 2009, and the B.Sc. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Minnesota, USA in 2008.

Mr. Rabin Nepal: A fourth year student studying Electronics and Communication Engineering in the department of Electronics and Computer Engineering at the Institute of Engineering, Thapathali Campus, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Mr. Rhimesh Lwagun: A fourth year student studying Electronics and Communication Engineering in the department of Electronics and Computer Engineering at the Institute of Engineering, Thapathali Campus, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Mr. Sanjay Rijal: A fourth year student studying Electronics and Communication Engineering in the department of Electronics and Computer Engineering at the Institute of Engineering, Thapathali Campus, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Mr. Upendra Subedi:  A fourth year student studying Electronics and Communication Engineering in the department of Electronics and Computer Engineering at the Institute of Engineering, Thapathali Campus, Kathmandu, Nepal.

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