Neural interfaces: the state of the market

Paul Raven @ 22-07-2010

Back in May we dipped into a heavy H+ Magazine article to find out about the cutting edge of neural interface research, the theoretical boundary-pushing stuff. While it’s fun to know where things are (or might be) going, like all good cyberpunks we’re much more interested in what we can realistically get our hands on right now; the things the street could be busily finding its own uses for. So head on over to this short piece at ReadWriteWeb, which is a neat list of six real products with basic neurointerface abilities, just waiting to be hacked or repurposed for something awesome [via TechnOccult].

Actually, the latter two are research devices rather than commercially available gizmos, but even so, those proofs-of-concept will need to be monetized at some point, AMIRITE? And of the real products on offer, I think this is my favourite:

[T]he Emotive EPOC neuroheadset […] features 14 saline-based sensors and a gyroscope. Primarily marketed to gamers, the device also helps people with disabilities regain control of their lives. Included with the device is the EmoKey, which is a lightweight application running in your computer’s background. It allows you to map out thought-controlled keystrokes. This headset is the preferred device of the Dartmouth Mobile Sensing Group, which created a brain-to-mobile interface that allows you to call your friends by thinking about them.

If any smart hacker types in the audience would like to kludge one of these things up so I can do all my blogging and editorial work without having to move my arms, drop me a line so we can discuss funding, OK?


What are you thinking about?

Paul Raven @ 30-10-2009

deep in thoughtIt’s a simple question, and one we ask each other all the time… but it comes with a whole lot of psychological baggage, not least that of the barrier between the thoughts you choose to communicate and those you choose to keep confined to your own cerebrum. So here’s the trigger for your next Phildickian moment of existential paranoia – brain scanning procedures developed by scientists in the specialist neurological field of “neural decoding”show promise of eventually being able to analyse what you’re thinking about:

Last week at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in Chicago, Jack Gallant, a leading “neural decoder” at the University of California, Berkeley, presented one of the field’s most impressive results yet. He and colleague Shinji Nishimoto showed that they could create a crude reproduction of a movie clip that someone was watching just by viewing their brain activity. Others at the same meeting claimed that such neural decoding could be used to read memories and future plans – and even to diagnose eating disorders.

Go read the whole article; neural decoding has the smell of a technology that’s about to get much bigger very quickly, especially when the military types hear about it and start throwing money in its general direction. And take note of the fact that although the success rates for algorithms guessing the correct connections between thoughts and subjects are pretty low at this point, they’re still above raw chance… and way above what most “professional psychics” can muster.  [image by mararie]


Mind over matter – the future of remote control

Paul Raven @ 09-07-2008

Cyborg headControlling mechanical and electronic devices with nothing but the power of your own thoughts is a science fiction trope almost as old as the genre itself, and like many other tropes it’s edging towards plausibility at quite a speed. [image by mize2oo5]

Futurismic has mentioned braincomputer interfaces a few times before, and the essential framework of the technology is fairly well established. However, the high costs involved mean that beyond research and rehabilitation there aren’t many truly practical applications right now.

But that’s not stopping the researchers thinking big, as in this Popular Mechanics article:

“… the research is showing that the brain can act independently of the body. One day, you could be sitting in an office and controlling a device from across the room—or in another building. And it’s not just flicking a switch. It could be a nanotool that’s moving through a tiny environment, and you can control it and see what it’s seeing.”

So, great news for the prospect of telecommuting – almost all manufacturing jobs could be done from the comfort of your armchair, for example. The flipside being, of course, that it would make offshore outsourcing an even more viable option than it is now. [story via SlashDot]