Saturday, February 15, 2014
Wielding The Mindscape
To accomplish any task or control any piece of technology, our brains send electrical signals to various parts of our body that control how we move and accomplish the task, all machines require some kind of input from a person to function, to tell them when to do what, this input starts in the brain and travels down to your fingers, telling them what to do.
But what if you could intercept those signals with technology as they traveled through your nervous system? Signaling directly to a machine would be a far more efficient control mechanism than using a mouse or typing. This idea has been around for a while and has experienced many breakthroughs, but recently a video went viral on youtube that showed how sophisticated this technology has become. It's short and you can watch it here:
Emotive Insight is a small wearable scanner that fits on your head and reads your brain waves, this information can then be displayed or used as input for a variety of purposes. One of the earliest versions of this concept is called Mindflex, its basically a similar headset that lets you control a ball that levitates over a platform, the ball responds to changes in your brain activity so you can consciously manipulate how the ball moves.
Emotive Insight is similar but designed to be used with a variety of technologies, many interesting concepts are shown in the video, including controlling an RC car and helicopter, non invasive brain scans, driving a (real) car, bypassing paralyzing injuries, and controlling video games with your mind. This just scratches the surface for the potential application of this technology, one can imagine next generation computer interfaces that are controlled by the mind, no keyboard or mouse required, or even lights, doors, refrigerator, thermostat, all wired up to respond to your mental commands.
Maybe the coolest part of the video besides the RC helicopter was the person driving the car, it's interesting to imagine people controlling vehicles with their minds, what if you used this to control a standard military UAV such as the reaper? It might be hard to imagine but one could theoretically control whole squads of reaper drones using this technology, or even squads made of up of various robots serving different utility functions.
There is also the potential for telepathic type abilities, using the brain scanner for sending and receiving messages to and from another person. This incredible possibility involves some complex technological feats, but with headsets like the Insight, we are getting closer. One of the biggest difficulties will likely be encoding the information in a way that's easy for your brain to create or receive, you might have to learn a sort of neural morris code that could be transmitted over brain waves, it isn't as simple as thinking a word and having it appear on the screen, this type of thing is probably possible but it is further off than simple mind to computer interface.
So this technology is coming very soon and is very hacker friendly, in the video they even show how it hooks into a simple micro controller to interface with any desired machine. The things people will use this for are probably unimaginable at this moment, and it is exciting to see something so sleek and functional coming out of kickstarter. It is probable that this technology will become pervasive in society along with things like Google Glass and Occulus Rift, they are the heralds of wearable tech and the revolution is just on the horizon.