A team of engineers has invented a soft, thin, stretchy device measuring just over 1 sq in. that can be attached to the skin outside the throat to help people with dysfunctional vocal cords regain their voice function.

The bioelectric system detects movement in a person’s larynx muscles and translate those signals into audible speech with the assistance of machine-learning technology — with nearly 95 percent accuracy.

The tiny patch-like device is made up of two components. One, a self-powered sensing component, detects and converts signals generated by muscle movements into high-fidelity, analyzable electrical signals; these electrical signals are then translated into speech signals using a machine-learning algorithm. The other, an actuation component, turns those speech signals into the desired voice expression.

The two components each contain two layers: a layer of biocompatible silicone compound polydimethylsiloxane, or PDMS, with elastic properties, and a magnetic induction layer made of copper induction coils. Sandwiched between the two components is a fifth layer containing PDMS mixed with micromagnets, which generates a magnetic field. (Image credit: Jun Chen Lab/UCLA)

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