The Future of Voice Recovery: New Device Invented by UCLA Engineers

People suffering from voice disorders, whether due to pathological vocal cord conditions or recovering from laryngeal cancer surgeries, face challenges in communicating effectively. However, recent advancements by a team of engineers at UCLA may provide a solution to this issue. The team has pioneered a soft, thin, stretchy device that can be attached to the skin outside the throat, helping individuals with dysfunctional vocal cords regain their voice function with remarkable accuracy.

The innovative bioelectric system, created by Jun Chen and his colleagues at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering, is designed to detect movement in a person’s larynx muscles and translate those signals into audible speech. This is achieved through a combination of a self-powered sensing component and an actuation component, both utilizing advanced technology such as machine learning algorithms. The device, measuring just over 1 square inch with a thickness of 0.06 inches, offers a non-invasive alternative to existing solutions for voice disorders.

The device consists of two key components: a sensing component that detects muscle movements and converts them into electrical signals, and an actuation component that turns these signals into voice expression. These components are made up of layers of biocompatible materials with elastic properties, including silicone compound polydimethylsiloxane and copper induction coils. By utilizing a soft magnetoelastic sensing mechanism, the device can accurately interpret the movement of laryngeal muscles and produce high-fidelity electrical signals for speech generation.

In experimental trials with healthy adults, the researchers tested the device’s accuracy by analyzing laryngeal muscle movement and correlating it with specific words using a machine-learning algorithm. The participants were able to pronounce sentences with a prediction accuracy of 94.68%, demonstrating the device’s capability to recognize and translate their intended speech. Moving forward, the team plans to expand the device’s vocabulary through further machine learning techniques and test it on individuals with speech disorders.

The potential impact of this new voice recovery device extends to individuals of all ages and demographic groups who experience voice disorders. With existing therapeutic approaches often requiring invasive procedures and lengthy recovery periods, this wearable solution offers a more convenient and comfortable alternative. By providing a non-invasive option for communication during treatment and recovery periods, the device has the potential to significantly improve the quality of life for those with voice disorders.

Overall, the development of this innovative device represents a significant advancement in the field of bioengineering, with the promise of transforming the way voice disorders are addressed and managed. As the research team continues to refine and expand the capabilities of the device, the future looks promising for individuals seeking new solutions for voice recovery.


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