The futurist Ray Kurzweil reports that, thanks to a new “intelligence-augmentation device” invented by an MIT research group, users can “‘speak silently’ with a computer by just thinking.”

The device, called AlterEgo, uses electrodes to gather “otherwise undetectable neuromuscular sub-vocalizations” and create data that can be “understood” by the user’s computer system. To activate the technology, users state the words they want to transmit silently, in their heads – without moving their lips. They receive responses from the computer through the headset, without disturbing others nearby.

The rationale for the technology arises from the need for less intrusive methods of retrieving information via computers than what is currently available. To accomplish the same thing today, we need to take out a cell phone, unlock it, open an app, type in our question, etc.

Relevance to Law: While we can all imagine the benefits of being able to check some aspect of the law when we are in the middle of client meeting without anyone noticing what we’re doing, the device opens the door to more controversial opportunities. For example, during experimental testing, users were able to tell their computers what chess moves their opponents had just made and receive recommendations on their best responses. It is not difficult to project future incarnations of such a device. Who wouldn’t welcome the opportunity to draft a document or have a highly confidential conversation during a particularly boring conference session? On the other hand, the legal implications of the technology are also mind-boggling and could even open a whole new area of practice.

Check out the AlterEgo video above and let me know your thoughts, either through the comments section below, or directly via email.