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Typing With Your Brain

CmdrTaco posted more than 4 years ago | from the what-a-waste-of-the-force dept.

Input Devices 262

destinyland writes "This article asks, 'Why bother to type a document using a keyboard when you can write it by simply thinking about the letters?' A brain wave study presented at the 2009 annual meeting of the American Epilepsy Society shows that people with electrodes in their brains can 'type' using just their minds. The study involved electrocorticography — a sheet of electrodes laid directly on the surface of the brain after a surgical incision into the skull. ('We were able to consistently predict the desired letters for our patients at or near 100 percent accuracy,' explains one Mayo clinic neurologist.) And besides typing, there's new brain wave applications that can now turn brain waves into music and even Twitter status updates — by thought alone."

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262 comments

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Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but (2, Interesting)

Jeian (409916) | more than 4 years ago | (#30536844)

Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but I can think of a whole lot of ways where broadcasting what I'm thinking could be highly, ah, embarrassing.

Re:Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but (5, Funny)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | more than 4 years ago | (#30536874)

I really boobies don't know boobies what you are boobies talking about. boobies

Re:Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but (2, Funny)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#30536960)

I really boobies don't know boobies what you are boobies talking about. boobies

Dude, press pause on the Slayers episode before posting. :P

Re:Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but (4, Funny)

Verdatum (1257828) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537398)

Of all the boobie-laden media out there you go with an oldschool anime reference? I commend you.

Re:Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but (1)

RJFerret (1279530) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537002)

Cause:

I really boobies don't know boobies what you are boobies talking about. boobies

Effect:

....accidents in cars cause people :-D

Re:Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but (1)

Sanat (702) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537238)

Reminds me of the old saying "If you drink... drive... don't park... accidents cause people."

Re:Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30537012)

Yes, doctor, we highly respect your BWHAHAHAAAAAAAAAA Mayo roflcopter clinic.

Re:Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but (1)

AndrewNeo (979708) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537056)

I'd have a harder time getting it to just type "Mayo" instead of "mayonnaise" every time.

Re:Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30537236)

I wonder if this would be equally true for all states of a person. For example, would a person who is stressed and in a hurry coincidentally have brain patterns that would be interpretted as a communication, even if not intended? Would such a thing be random characters, nonsense, or incoherent? Would pattern analysis (for example using a neural net, no pun intended) on the sequence of characters reveal behavioral bias? What would the implications be if the twitter account was hacked? Talk about having root! All your brain stem are belong to us!

Re:Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but (1)

thewils (463314) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537286)

I was thinking more along the lines of this...
Voice recognition [msn.com]

Re:Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but (1)

Kamokazi (1080091) | more than 4 years ago | (#30536916)

I wouldn't be embarrassed, but the sexual harassment lawsuits would be unrelenting.

Re:Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but (5, Funny)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537006)

I wouldn't be embarrassed, but the sexual harassment lawsuits would be unrelenting.

Why? Everytime you think of something sexual in that e-mail to your boss, you'll have to hit backspace. It's a positive feedback system. And I fail to see why this is a problem only for men -- if you knew half the stuff that went through the average woman's brain you'd probably crap a few bricks. Women make up for in detail what men do in quantity in that regard. ^___^ I'm not afraid my boss will find out... I'm worried my mother will.

Re:Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but (1)

AndrewNeo (979708) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537078)

Until you automatically think CTRL+Enter in your mind, then you're screwed!

Re:Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but (2, Funny)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537106)

Until you automatically think CTRL+Enter in your mind, then you're screwed!

Control. Enter. hmmmmmmmmmm.... (smiles sweetly) I think that when I'm around my girlfriend all the time.

Re:Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537164)

I tried

C:

but got dos'ed.

Re:Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537190)

stupid filter, C:-enter

Re:Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but (2, Funny)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537224)

See colon, then enter?

That sounds dirty.

Re:Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537174)

From your username, I’d have assumed it was the other way around.

Re:Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537392)

From your username, I'd have assumed it was the other way around.

From your comment, it's obvious you've never met a lesbian. Well, now you have.

Re:Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537344)

X-off

Re:Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but (2, Funny)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537114)

And I fail to see why this is a problem only for men -- if you knew half the stuff that went through the average woman's brain you'd probably crap a few bricks

Sure, but the double standard would still ensure that the sexual harassment lawsuits against men would vastly outnumber those against women.

The typical man who opens a “whoopsie” e-mail from a female coworker would have several paragraphs worth of questionable material to delete before he had even finished reading her e-mail. The typical woman who received a similar e-mail from a male coworker would have the letter to her lawyer halfway completed...

;p

Re:Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537120)

if you knew half the stuff that went through the average woman's brain you'd probably crap a few bricks. Women make up for in detail what men do in quantity in that regard.

Case in point [blogspot.com] . Except most adult women are smart enough not to write it down.
-
This probably won't write down every single thought that runs through your head. You still probably have to 'think' of the letters. When I type I mentally spell out every word and know that I have to hit those keys. When I'm talking to someone or just thinking about that hot waitress I'm not thinking "W-o-w w-h-a-t a g-r-e-a-t a-s-s".

I wonder what the WPM is. I've reached a point in my keyboarding skills that the limitation seems to be on the brain thinking of what to type and not on the fingers actually doing the typing.

Re:Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but (3, Informative)

gzearfoss (829360) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537242)

From the article, the rate is up to 8 characters per minute.

Re:Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but (3, Funny)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537260)

Yeah, but the next one will go to 11.

Re:Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but (2, Interesting)

fyngyrz (762201) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537212)

Women make up for in detail what men do in quantity in that regard.

Cite? Where's your data? As far as you go, I'd be perfectly willing to accept that's how you roll, but women in general... the indirect evidence doesn't seem to support this.

In my experience, men are far more visual than women are. I think one obvious chunk of evidence for this was the pre-Internet era proliferation of men's picture magazines while one or two comparable woman's magazines (e.g. Playgirl) addressed what they thought might be a similar market. Also that the two leading magazines, Playboy and Penthouse, both specialized in visually rich pictures, including the surroundings, environment, etc., while the less successful ones kept it simple, not to say gynecological.

Another tick in this column is the huge market for makeup, sexy clothes, etc., for women; not so much for men. It would seem that men are looking specifically for visual stimulation on a level that women are not. And that women know it, because they certainly buy this stuff in large enough quantities without demanding comparable "peacock" performance from the male population.

Re:Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#30536930)

I wonder if they can differentiate between what I mentally “type” (which implies focus of some sort) and every random thought that happens to zip through my mind. I’d expect there to be some sort of difference – if not in the region of the brain involved then at least in the level of activity.

(My workplace categorizes TFA as “entertainment”, so I’m not sure whether this was given mention... so if it was, then no, I didn’t RTFA, but at least I have an excuse.)

Re:Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but (1)

MaskedSlacker (911878) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537368)

My guess is that the system has to be trained. As in, it listens to your thoughts while you type out a preset text by hand, and eventually matches the motor impulses that you would normally act out to the keys you would type.

Of course, if you're one of those freaks who can type in Dvorak and QWERTY it might not work so well.

Re:Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but (1)

Wrexs0ul (515885) | more than 4 years ago | (#30536962)

I always figured the final system would require a series of specific thoughts before entering "read" mode, kinda like a login/logoff to the keyboard once your hands no longer serve that purpose.

Not so concerned right now though. Reading letters only means only the dirty thoughts you literally spell out will be displayed. All those "wish I was playing WOW" (or other 15 second occurrences) won't make it into the email to your boss since our brain uses a mesh of stimuli and and language to convey thoughts. A wicked first step though even if it's only letters.

I always pictured reading thoughts was comparing the output of a black box with a dataset of known values. But if many unknowns mean chicken, what happens if they got chicken wrong?

-Matt

Useful for for some... (1)

sycodon (149926) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537226)

A related breakthrough [physorg.com]

FTFA

"By implanting an electrode into the brain of a person with locked-in syndrome, scientists have demonstrated how to wirelessly transmit neural signals to a speech synthesizer. The "thought-to-speech" process takes about 50 milliseconds - the same amount of time for a non-paralyzed, neurologically intact person to speak their thoughts. The study marks the first successful demonstration of a permanently installed, wireless implant for real-time control of an external device."

It's just a few vowels at the moment, but still...

This is good? (1)

Wrexs0ul (515885) | more than 4 years ago | (#30536852)

I already thought Twitter required more filtering between brain and keyboard, but now this?

Then again, who on Slashdot hasn't at least once dreamed about hands-free typing.

-Matt

Re:This is good? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30536892)

It would be awesome for the severely paralyzed.

Re:This is good? (1)

MBCook (132727) | more than 4 years ago | (#30536946)

Would it really? I realize that it can be difficult for people in some situations to type, but how is this any better than the "look at the letter on the computer screen" method?

That one doesn't require a a craniotomy and wires in your brain. In that method (or the blow in the tube method Steven Hawking uses) you could look at individual words that you may be trying to spell to speed things up (like in texting). In this method, you only get letters. To get something else, you'd have to train the computer to recognize that pattern in brain.

It's neat, but I don't think it's very useful in it's current form. Only for people who lack vision and can't see to use the other methods.

Re:This is good? (0)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 4 years ago | (#30536988)

I didn't read the article, but what kinds of speeds are they getting?

Reading Words per minute is supposed to go up when you stop subvocalizing the words as you read them. For the same reasons is thinking about writing going to be faster than typing?

Are your fingers the bottleneck? or is the speed you're thinking about the words the theorhetical top speed?

Certainly there are applications for people with disabilities, but once you acknowledge that, the next question is, is it better than the old way for non-disabled folks.

Re:This is good? (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537252)

My iPhone is a good device for output (I can read nearly all the webpages I want) but is awful to input, taking up much more time to, say, making a post on /. than it would with a desktop or laptop. I don't think a miniature keyboard will fix this issue. Making the phone bigger is not an option, nor is carry around a fullsize keyboard (even those roll up flexible ones).

So this will be good for that. Though I suspect a front-side facing camera that can track your eyemovements down to the key on screen keyboard it's staring at and counting an extended blink as a type might be closer to reality.

Re:This is good? (4, Funny)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537356)

> I already thought Twitter required more filtering between brain and
> keyboard, but now this?

It's Twitter. No need to involve the brain at all.

Wetware (1)

cbs4385 (929248) | more than 4 years ago | (#30536854)

Well, I suppose as long as it's a wire, I'm OK with it. I draw the line at wireless access though. I don't want anyone to be able to war-drive my frontal cortex.

Re:Wetware (1)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 4 years ago | (#30536924)

Yeah, but where is that guy who's sig says the ultimate hardware hack is to tune a health body, now he can get at the firmware too.

For slashdotters... (2, Funny)

hey! (33014) | more than 4 years ago | (#30536862)

typing *without* your brain might be more convenient.

Re:For slashdotters... (1)

jack2000 (1178961) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537166)

Get with the times, I'm doing this as we speak!

Regrettably... (1)

InfinityWpi (175421) | more than 4 years ago | (#30536876)

... it turns out that they used an old AT-style connector, so you're only able to use your thoughts to type on a 386DX2/40 at best. Wuich is okay, I guess, still runs Linux.

Seriously, tho, combine this with Bluetooth, and we've got ourselves a winner. Connect to your PC, cell phone, PS3, whatever. I'll go in for the surgery as soon as it's availa... wait. Can I also move a mouse with my thoughts? Using a computer with just keys could be harsh these days.

Re:Regrettably... (1)

ravenshrike (808508) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537250)

Movement would have to be remapped to the arrow keys. Thinking WASD to move would be a PITA.

Re:Regrettably... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30537294)

Bluetooth is a bad idea. You'd get BlueJacked, and then you'd get a BSOD. Not pretty.

oh god (4, Insightful)

darkitecture (627408) | more than 4 years ago | (#30536878)

yes, because what we need is more twitter.

whenever i hear about groundbreaking advancements in the neurosciences, i for one automatically think about how it can improve my twitter feed.

sigh.

Re:oh god (4, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537074)

whenever i hear about groundbreaking advancements in the neurosciences, i for one automatically think about how it can improve my twitter feed.

Well, the internet was a groundbreaking advance in information technology that has allowed both advanced physics research and 4chan posts to exist in the same medium. But that's the case with any technology -- it will be used for both really intelligent, and really stupid, purposes. A car is a wonderful advancement that allows people to get to and from work, and then get drunk and turn livingrooms into garages.

*shrug*

Re:oh god (1)

darkitecture (627408) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537150)

i don't disagree, but your point really doesn't have anything to do with mine.

i'm pretty sure "let's call it the internet" and "we could use it to share stupid memes" weren't uttered in the same breath.

i'm also pretty sure karl benz first thought after inventing the modern automobile wasn't "you know what, i'd really like to get shitfaced drunk and give this baby a crash test" either.

Re:oh god (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537420)

i don't disagree, but your point really doesn't have anything to do with mine.

You're bitching about how a really advanced technology is being used for a really stupid purpose. I was just pointing out that Twitter is hardly a unique example...

Re:oh god (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30537124)

yes, because what we need is more twitter.

whenever i hear about groundbreaking advancements in the neurosciences, i for one automatically think about how it can improve my twitter feed.

sigh.

Quite true. And imagine the learning curve of not ONLY typing with your brain, but also "think-typing" using the SHIFT key.

Re:oh god (1)

darkitecture (627408) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537172)

actually, i was just thinking the same thing. would you be able to think "capital T" or would you somehow have to simultaneously think "hold shift key" and then "type T"?

Re:oh god (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537184)

If the computer was programmed to automatically follow the rules of capitalization and punctuation, you wouldn’t typically have to worry about it.

Re:oh god (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537328)

That depends on the language. For example, if you want to write in German "Ich habe in Moskau liebe Genossen" (I have dear comrades in Moscow), but the system types "Ich habe in Moskau Liebe genossen" (I've enjoyed love in Moskow), you'll certainly not like the result, especially if the recipient is your wive (who doesn't live in Moscow) :-)

Re:oh god (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537386)

The accent / focus would be different... if the computer could detect which word is the noun and which the adjective, it could correctly capitalize them.

Re:oh god (1)

jbezorg (1263978) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537156)

Well, lets face the facts. They were really just trying to avoid mentioning the internet porn industry.

Re:oh god (1)

darkitecture (627408) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537188)

if you're looking for an alternative to using your hands when you think "internet porn" and you think of this... you should get out more.

I'll be out of the office a week from Tuesday... (1)

sprior (249994) | more than 4 years ago | (#30536882)

Got a little elective brain surgery scheduled...

Re:I'll be out of the office a week from Tuesday.. (1)

Galestar (1473827) | more than 4 years ago | (#30536932)

Please direct me to your surgeon, I would like to schedule something for Wednesday

Re:I'll be out of the office a week from Tuesday.. (1)

sprior (249994) | more than 4 years ago | (#30536972)

I found his ad on http://thereifixedit.com/ [thereifixedit.com] I'm sure it'll be fine.

Brilliant (4, Funny)

MBCook (132727) | more than 4 years ago | (#30536890)

Amazing. Why there are no(*) downsides at all! This will sweep the world!

Soon we will all use this, and the keyboard will be dead. Imagine what computers could look like without the needing keyboard. Almost like... tablets of some kind. We'll call them "portable blackboard computers".

(*) Only known downsides:

  • Slow
  • Needs craniotomy
  • Needs lame wool cap to keep shaved head warm
  • Slow
  • Only handles 36 characters
  • Doesn't zap you for using texting shorthand

It is by will alone I set my mind in motion. (2, Funny)

Tekfactory (937086) | more than 4 years ago | (#30536904)

It is by will alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the juice of Sapho that thoughts acquire speed, the lips acquire stains. The stains become a warning. It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.

And Electrodes in the brain.

Right...

It is by will and electrodes in my brain I set my mind in motion.

Because... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30536910)

I can't think 120WPM, but I can sure type it.

Re:Because... (2, Funny)

Arthur Grumbine (1086397) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537244)

I can't think 120WPM, but I can sure type it.

Then, at your fastest, you must be typing things that you haven't put any thought into. Thus - your post.

If you thought Twitter was bad now... (1)

MrCrassic (994046) | more than 4 years ago | (#30536934)

In addition to the ability to “mind read” vowels, consonants, and individual letters, brain wave applications also include algorithms to turn brain waves into music and even “tweeting” (using the popular Twitter Internet application) by thought alone.

Expect to see millions of tweets saying, "I'm tweeting about what I'm thinking of tweeting next!" In succession. For a week. And then there's Music Monday, Thinking Tuesday, and Lord knows what else...

Re:If you thought Twitter was bad now... (1)

zero0ne (1309517) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537050)

Whacking Wednesday
Twittering Thursday
Phishing Friday
Searching Saturday

Re:If you thought Twitter was bad now... (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537358)

Slashdotting Sunday.

Very interesting (2, Insightful)

jocabergs (1688456) | more than 4 years ago | (#30536936)

I'm curious as to whether or not this will be able to help patients with locked in disorder. Recently in the news there was an story about a man who had been "locked-in", unable to communicate with others for nearly 20 years. The Science-Based Medicine blog did a big write up of this story (http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=3122) and some of the inherent problems with the way in which they made contact with the patient "facilitated communication". If the accuracy rate is truly as good as claimed this could really be a huge help for individuals who are otherwise unable to communicate with the outside world, a considerably step up from the blink once for yes, twice for no based communication standard. (though if you knew binary code you could be a much more effective blinker)

Re:Very interesting (1)

Thumper_SVX (239525) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537394)

I thought the same thing myself; the "Facilitated Communication" has been slammed in court on more than one occasion because it became rapidly quite clear that the facilitator was the one doing the actual communication, not the poor schmo in the wheelchair. Hell, I know if I had true locked-in syndrome then I'd love to have something like this so I can at least have a hope of communicating with the outside world.

Thinking about letters? (4, Informative)

SpeedyDX (1014595) | more than 4 years ago | (#30536942)

I only speak for myself here, but it seems like thinking about letters is actually harder than typing on a keyboard. I don't really think about what letters I'm pressing when I type, I just think of the words and the vast majority of the time, it's just muscle memory doing its thing. Perhaps for novel words or words that I don't quite remember how to spell, I'll think of the letters individually. Sounds like more trouble than it's worth.

Further, it's not entirely clear that our cognitive capacities reside solely in our brain. The rest of our body could have a role to play in cognition. It could be the case that when we're typing, a big part of our typing cognitive process actually depends on our body executing typing actions. For more info, see Embodied Embedded Cognition [wikipedia.org] , Enactivism [wikipedia.org] , and other related philosophy of mind or AI theories.

Re:Thinking about letters? (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#30536970)

I would imagine that their hope is to eventually improve the technology to the point where it can recognise not just single letters but entire words and sentences.

Re:Thinking about letters? (4, Insightful)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537080)

On the other hand, the first time you tried to type was a lot of work, too. There's nothing saying that there isn't a way to get good at typing like this... Nobody has even tried yet.

Re:Thinking about letters? (3, Interesting)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537384)

That's a good point that I think a lot of people miss when it comes to new interfacing technology. Sure, it takes some getting used to, and at first, it's probably going to suck and you are going to want to go back to the old, 'better' way of doing things. However, given consistent use and a bit of patience our minds and bodies are remarkable at learning new interfaces. Think about the the first time you drove a stick shift. You probably popped the clutch a few times and squealed some tires and killed the engine once or twice. However, after a month or two getting a feel for the clutch everyday while driving, you begin to master the motions and, eventually, working the clutch becomes an art form in and of itself.

This is one of the underlying principles of Kung-Fu. Through disciplined, consistent repetition, our bodies develop habits all of our own. Martial arts mastery comes when your body has ritualized so many action-reaction combinations that you can start combining them in new, more inventive, more powerful ways. The same thing goes for an editor like vi. Eventually, you master enough key strokes that you don't even need a mouse anymore. The same thing happened with typing when the keyboard first came about and, now, it is happening again with mobile platform keyboards (I can text with two thumbs as fast as I could type with two hands three years ago).

My bet would be that, as these neuroscience interfaces develop with the future, our 'mental-fu' will start to develop just like the Kung-Fu we practice to learn any number of physical interfaces and actions. Before you know it, we may be living in a world where our very wills could be pitted against one another in mental show downs. I, for one, welcome the idea of interfaces that force humanity to start mastering and disciplining its own mental habits on a wide-scale.

Re:Thinking about letters? (1)

radtea (464814) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537122)

The rest of our body could have a role to play in cognition.

It cracks me up that AI people are just getting around to noticing this. I guess they've never ridden a bicycle, threaded a needle, or done any of the myriad other complex tasks that require intelligence in the fingers or other parts of the body: the processing power may be in the brain, but a huge amount of the work is being done via complex multi-sensorial feedback from the whole body.

It's also a little weird that all of these "do X with JUST your brain" stories have statements like this: "people with electrodes in their brains can 'type' using just their minds."

That's like saying, "People who are in automobiles can increase their speed by just flexing their toes." Sure they can, so long as they have a huge complex machine doing the work that the rest of the body would normally do.

Re:Thinking about letters? (1)

SpeedyDX (1014595) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537318)

This actually comes really close to a pretty recent argument against brain-in-a-vat thought experiments. Envatted brain thought experiments try to illustrate that cognition resides solely in the brain. However, if you really think about the experiment carefully, an envatted brain would require something so similar to a body that it could be said to be a surrogate body. This article [utoronto.ca] written by a Philosophy professor at the University of Toronto, Evan Thompson, explains this argument in much greater detail.

The take-home is that you're exactly right. Complex feedback loops between brain and body seem to play a huge functional role in cognition. So any "do X only with brain waves" not only fails to capture the fact that there is a very complicated mechanism in place to actually capture the brain waves, but it also misses the point in that doing things with just your brain is HARDER than doing it with your body, because you are deprived of the input required for those brain-body feedback loops.

If this typing experiment is implemented, you would have to put a keyboard layout on the screen or at least SOMEWHERE so it can provide feedback input. Without that keyboard (either on-screen or elsewhere) providing input for feedback, your cognitive capacities are actually severely hindered.

Re:Thinking about letters? (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537178)

I only speak for myself here, but it seems like thinking about letters is actually harder than typing on a keyboard.

This is probably true for anyone who has use of at least one functional limb. Similarly, typing by dictation is easier for anyone who can speak. For people who have neither the use of a limb nor speech (total paralysis for example), typing with brain waves may be an attractive interface.

Though the article's recorded rate of "up to" 8 characters per minute means it will be quite a while before we see the next Great American Novel come out of a neurology ward.

Re:Thinking about letters? (1)

Rigrig (922033) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537200)

it seems like thinking about letters is actually harder than typing on a keyboard.

You need a keyboard though, thinking about letters might be more convenient than typing them into something like a mobile phone.

I don't really think about what letters I'm pressing when I type, I just think of the words and the vast majority of the time, it's just muscle memory doing its thing.

I could imagine something similar happening while using this, it just cuts out the letter-to-key-translation and finger-movement neurons.

Not that I'd sign up for having my head opened up now though(I'll wait till they can integrate those electrodes into my tinfoil hat), but it sound like good news for disabled people.

Re:Thinking about letters? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30537316)

Where do you think the memory from 'muscle memory' resides?

Re:Thinking about letters? (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537422)

I s n apostrophe t space t h a t space h o w space e v e r y o n e space t h i n k s questionmark

ALS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30536954)

I assume this type of technology could be VERY beneficial to those individuals that suffer from ALS, or would the condition cause some sort of interference with the brain's patterns?

Paralysis, we've got an app for that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30536964)

Seriously, when will this happen!

"I can type to you with my brain" (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 4 years ago | (#30536966)

Nope. Just doesn't have the same impact.

Re:"I can type to you with my brain" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30536994)

And my nose bleeds...

Remember the movie "What Women Want"? (1)

judolphin (1158895) | more than 4 years ago | (#30536974)

We'll be about 3 steps away from that if this comes through. I don't know about you, but personally, I'm wary of a computer being able to read my thoughts... Though it would be amazing for disabled people.

I think it would be too slow (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#30536996)

I don't know about "normal people" but for me, if I had to think of each letter, I would probably forget what I was thinking in the first place. When I type, I simply think of the words I want to say and they come out through my finger movements. So, if this technique of mind reading becomes more advanced and entire words can be recognized, then we would have something useful.

Re:I think it would be too slow (2, Funny)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537022)

if I had to think of each letter, I would probably forget what I was thinking in the first place

You could write it down so you won’t forget it...

Characters, not words... (1)

gzearfoss (829360) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537008)

Though it's great for people with no other means of communication, there are two main obstacles I see for everyday use: Speed, and words.
Speed: "I've seen people do up to eight characters per minute," Wilson says. Nothing else needs to be said.
Words: When I type, I don't think about typing individual letters, so much as I think about typing the words in the sentence. I'm no neuroscientist, but I would wager that this doesn't trigger the part of the brain that they're reading the letters from - or if it does, it triggers them too quickly to be read.

In other words, it's a great step in technology, and it's wonderful for those who need to use it, but I don't see it becoming practical for everyday use in the near future.

This is your brain typing. (1)

Ukab the Great (87152) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537034)

Th1whkjahds isaasdk yourasdfr brainalskdf typingalskjd onasd druggs3s.

Any questions?

Re:This is your brain typing. (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537132)

Yes. Where can I get some?

Letters, not words (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537060)

For normal people could be slower than typing. You should think on a letter, and for long enough. Alone letters usually dont have associations that could make very complex determining in which one is thinking,

Still pretty slow (1)

musicalmicah (1532521) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537062)

The videos I've seen of this make it look very tedious. The patients seemed to be brain-typing around 1 character every few seconds. I'll be excited when I can use my brain to output to a computer at over 100 wpm... and without invasive surgery, for that matter!

Yeah... (2, Funny)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537112)

Is there such a thing as a sticky key when you are thinking about it?
Youuuuuuuuu do know what I am talking abouuuuuuuuuuut, right?

Re:Yeah... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30537186)

Yes...it's a seizure.

Re:Yeah... (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537202)

This was so much funnier when I thought that by “sticky” you meant... um... something else.

Twitter (0, Redundant)

natespizer (1362373) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537126)

God, do we have to mention twitter interoperability with every possible thing that comes out. So many best things to do with this technology. Instead we will get constant updates on your bowel status

frist past (0, Offtopic)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537158)

It's quate slow and not fery reliaple.

ad;giajdgadga (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30537196)

a;dlgijaopuq495u290ga;lkfnhasfp09u8tq34

Actually, I find the act of typing helpful. (1)

BaronHethorSamedi (970820) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537222)

I think between the time I think of something to type, and the time I use my fingers to put it on the screen, I'm forced to focus a little more to put my thought into a communicable form that will make sense to someone else.

And really, actually having to think of each individual letter (something my brain sends to my fingers in a fairly automatic fashion) seems like more effort to me than just pushing a button and having the letter pop up on the screen.

And as to making surgical incisions in my skull to lay sheets of electrodes on my brain, well...I'll stick with my keyboard.

Oh Great... (1)

cdoggyd (1118901) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537248)

...Now my wife will misspell every word in the dictionary even faster.

Dear aunt, let's set so double the killer... (1)

kvap (454189) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537262)

Can brainwaves have accents or slurring?

I'd be a bit skeptical considering how speech recognition has worked out: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1123221217782777472# [google.com]

I'm just saying...

"Why bother" ? (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537274)

Because of this:
a sheet of electrodes laid directly on the surface of the brain after a surgical incision into the skull

You go first.

Piracy Problems (1)

lostandthedamned (907167) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537292)

How long before U have to declare that i've had this sort of surgery before going into a bookshop?
If I can go in, take a book off the shelf, take it to the instore coffee shop and read it into my phone by bluetooth with one of these then i'm set.

Before Typing, Try To (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30537340)

Think.

Enjoy the U.S. economic collapse.

Yours In Riga,
Kilgore Trout

random brainwaves? (1)

tomhath (637240) | more than 4 years ago | (#30537342)

What they've found here is that they can map certain patterns of brainwaves to known facts when they are expecting one of a small set of patterns at a specific time. There are obvious applications for this with people who can't communicate any other way, but beyond that they fall into the same trap AI and speech recognition is already in. Picking out a letter, word, or thought from all the other noise inside a person's head has to be orders of magnitude more difficult that understanding spoken text.

Reminds me of an old joke:

Fortune Teller: No

Interviewer: Is it true that you can actually read a person's mind?

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