The Download: head transplants, and filtering sounds with AI

An animated video posted this week has a voice-over that sounds like a late-night TV ad, but the pitch is straight out of the far future. The arms of an octopus-like robotic surgeon swirl, swiftly removing the head of a dying man and placing it onto a young, healthy body. 

This is BrainBridge, the animated video claims—“the world’s first revolutionary concept for a head transplant machine, which uses state-of-the-art robotics and artificial intelligence to conduct complete head and face transplantation.”

BrainBridge is not a real company—it’s not incorporated anywhere. Yet it’s not merely a provocative work of art. This video is better understood as the first public billboard for a hugely controversial scheme to defeat death that’s recently been gaining attention among some life-extension proponents and entrepreneurs. Read the full story.

—Antonio Regalado

Noise-canceling headphones use AI to let a single voice through

Modern life is noisy. If you don’t like it, noise-canceling headphones can reduce the sounds in your environment. But they muffle sounds indiscriminately, so you can easily end up missing something you actually want to hear.

A new prototype AI system for such headphones aims to solve this. Called Target Speech Hearing, the system gives users the ability to select a person whose voice will remain audible even when all other sounds are canceled out.

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