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From Touchpad To Thought-pad

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the what-about-dirty-minds dept.

Input Devices 92

An anonymous reader wrote with a story saying "Move over, touchpad screens: New research funded in part by the National Institutes of Health shows that it is possible to manipulate complex visual images on a computer screen using only the mind. The study, published in Nature, found that when research subjects had their brains connected to a computer displaying two merged images, they could force the computer to display one of the images and discard the other. The signals transmitted from each subject's brain to the computer were derived from just a handful of brain cells."

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too much interactions make users dumber$ (1)

Adolf Hitroll (562418) | more than 3 years ago | (#34050520)

nt

touch pad? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34050528)

I hardly bleurshpad

Conflicted (2)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 3 years ago | (#34050560)

On the one hand, the control and abilities of computers would grow by leaps and bounds if they were mind-controlled.

On the other hand, there's something to be said of tactile feedback. I'm not sure if brain-->computer would be as satisfying as brain-->hands-->computer.

Re:Conflicted (1)

chemicaldave (1776600) | more than 3 years ago | (#34050692)

But what if that computer was portable enough to carry or fit in the skull, and could be used to store information?

I have to agree that some applications are better with hands. Namely games that were designed for the mouse + keyboard, but there are plenty of other uses that will come of better and better brain-to-computer tech.

Re:Conflicted (1)

KillaGouge (973562) | more than 3 years ago | (#34050696)

What if in the process of brain-->computer they send inputs to your brain that send the signals to the touch feel centers of the brain, so you precieve the tactile feedback?

Re:Conflicted (2, Interesting)

TerminaMorte (729622) | more than 3 years ago | (#34050714)

Not to you or me maybe; we'll be too used to using our hands. But what about people who grow up with it? Maybe in a few decades computers won't even come with mice/keyboard. That's only for old people. :P

Re:Conflicted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34050960)

yeah but what if said skull computer caught a botnet or a virus. I didn't mean to rape and rob, i was being remotley controlled...your honor

Re:Conflicted (1)

dasacc22 (1830082) | more than 3 years ago | (#34051052)

eventually this old-man syndrome is going to disperse into the existential shallowness of past thought and kids are going to grow up expecting something completely different every month, week, and day while we're stuck slinging around phrases like old-dogs and new-tricks and making fun of our grandparents trudging around in the snow for 20 miles to read emily dickenson at the town barn, converted school house

Re:Conflicted (1)

FiloEleven (602040) | more than 3 years ago | (#34054276)

Eh, new stuff all the time is overrated. The truth is that it takes time for any tech to be understood, and the better understanding you have of something the more you can usually do with it. We see this all the time with video game systems--most of them get much more interesting a few years after they've been out.

What worries me more is the unconscious assumption that newer == better. In this instance, people are talking about substituting a complicated system that directly interfaces with an even more complicated system in order to do something that could be accomplished with a simpler interface controlled by hand. All the existing brain-computer interfaces require the user to concentrate hard on certain thoughts in order to do not-very-impressive things. While the interface may become more fine-grained, I think there are lots of advantages to being able to type or click around the screen while thinking about where I will eat lunch or listening to the news. I don't want to have to sit in an isolation chamber in order to surf the Web just so I can do it without using my hands.

Re:Conflicted (1)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | more than 3 years ago | (#34053486)

You mean you have to use your hands? That's like a baby's toy!

Re:Conflicted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34059926)

and the kids will be completely different to the adults because the technopathy (technological telepathy) allows them to collaborate and interact with other people in a way that makes the internet look quaint.

Re:Conflicted (1)

melikamp (631205) | more than 3 years ago | (#34051090)

A thought-controlled computer would feel just like a part of your mind. It would be nice to have feedback, though: like being able to recall thoughts or images from the computer memory. Then even the biggest doofus will recognize that non-free software is a disease.

The tactile contact will also get bigger, in form of autonomous bots. These will be non-free for a long time, I am afraid, until MLK-bot comes along.

Re:Conflicted (2, Interesting)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#34051298)

There's also something to be said about having WIRES IN YOUR BRAIN. Yes, I have an eye implant and have had doctors stick needles in that eye (twice), but it was to keep from going blind.

The only way I'd let them put wires in my brain would be to prevent or cure brain damage.

Re:Conflicted (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34051356)

On the one hand, the control and abilities of computers would grow by leaps and bounds if they were mind-controlled.

On the other hand, there's something to be said of tactile feedback. I'm not sure if brain-->computer would be as satisfying as brain-->hands-->computer.

You don't actually need tactile feedback for a lot of things. A lot of people don't like touch keyboards because the lack of tactile feedback but what they really want is -ANY- form of feedback. Most touch keyboards do of course, highlight the key you are pressing but of course your finger is in the way so you can't see it.

You would have a greater access to visual feedback - instead of needing to feel the "press" of a button you would simply be able to SEE your input, and if you didn't like it, you could go back and change it, like when you type really fast and read your typos. This is something that tactile feedback doesn't provide.

Mind controlled devices are the way of the future - they just need the proper IO. As for the article, wasn't there some kind of brain game the guys at Penny Arcade were invited to Demo? Didn't they do a strip about it and the joke was that Gabe didn't have sufficient brain power to power the device? Anyways - was there a significant advancement in the field or is this the fifth or sixth or millionth group of scientists who has now claimed they can do it.

Re:Conflicted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34051864)

satisfying as brain-->hands-->computer.

I like the satisfying tactile feedback from brain-->hands-->"hardware". <dirty giggle>

What she said. (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 3 years ago | (#34054098)

On the other hand, there's something to be said of tactile feedback.

Handful of Brain Cells (2, Insightful)

Bicx (1042846) | more than 3 years ago | (#34050732)

That's quite an ambiguous term. For instance, my hand can probably hold about 1/3 of my brain matter.

However, my girlfriend hand (which is considerably smaller than mine) could probably hold several brains the size of her own.

Now this joke is really getting out of hand...

Re:Handful of Brain Cells (4, Funny)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34050814)

However, my girlfriend hand (which is considerably smaller than mine) could probably hold several brains the size of her own.

Wow, I hope she doesn't read Slashdot. Or you're going to have to worry about holding something else in your hand.

Re:Handful of Brain Cells (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34052530)

He did say "girlfriend hand". I can only expect he's already holding "something else" in it.

Re:Handful of Brain Cells (1)

slick7 (1703596) | more than 3 years ago | (#34053046)

He did say "girlfriend hand". I can only expect he's already holding "something else" in it.

Yeah, his brainless head.

Re:Handful of Brain Cells (1)

hierophanta (1345511) | more than 3 years ago | (#34053362)

well spotted

Re:Handful of Brain Cells (5, Funny)

CCarrot (1562079) | more than 3 years ago | (#34054990)

However, my girlfriend hand...

So...which one is your 'girlfriend' hand, the right or the left?

</tasteless>

Off topic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34050826)

Um, if this post is marked as off-topic, then so should the news article itself from which this quote was extracted.

Re:Off topic? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34050922)

Yeah, well, your mom is off-topic.

Re:Off topic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34051260)

You shouldn't be so surprised; mods always screw up around here... they're either blasting someone whose opinion differs from their own or using multis to karma whore. Pretty pathetic practice IMO.

Re:Handful of Brain Cells (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 3 years ago | (#34052490)

However, my girlfriend hand

Where I come from, we call that Mary Palm and her Five Sisters -- but you're right, girlfriend-hand is much easier to say.

Re:Handful of Brain Cells (1)

geekgirlandrea (1148779) | more than 3 years ago | (#34057102)

However, my girlfriend hand...

Would that be Lisa Left or Rachel Right?

... could probably hold several brains the size of her own.

You must be where all the stereotypes about heterosexual male Slashdotters and virginity come from.

bluetooth headband (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 3 years ago | (#34050748)

Sure, why not? With proper training exercises (much like learning to type), you could navigate through your PC with thought alone. Things like task switching, putting windows to the forefront, new tabs, minimizing...etc all could be done. More granular items might be more of a challenge such as thought typing and drawing on the screen. But none the less, such technology would be a versatile compliment to the mouse and keyboard used today.

Re:bluetooth headband (1)

IICV (652597) | more than 3 years ago | (#34052156)

More granular items might be more of a challenge such as thought typing and drawing on the screen

Actually I bet you anything that we'll have reliable "thought-typing" before we have reliable general "speech-typing". Once you know how to touch type, hitting an 'A' always requires twitching the same muscles, which should be a detectable "thought". This sort of consistent input => consistent output is the sort of thing computers are really good at modelling, unlike speech - take your laptop to a room with different acoustics, for instance, and all of a sudden your voice sounds completely different even with a headset microphone.

You would just wear the Bluetooth brainscanner for a week or so while it records your brain patterns as you use your computer and logs the actions you take at the same time, then runs some Bayesian learning algorithm to figure out which means what. I bet that most habitual computer actions boil down to single "thoughts" - like alt-tabbing or locking the computer or minimizing to desktop. Mousing would probbly be harder, though.

brain interface pfft! (2, Insightful)

shadowrat (1069614) | more than 3 years ago | (#34050776)

My computer has been controlled by my brain for years. I think about how i want my fingers to move and the text gets entered into the system. As an added benefit, i can prevent my computer from accepting text from my thoughts by simply putting my hands in a different place!

Re:brain interface pfft! (1)

radtea (464814) | more than 3 years ago | (#34050910)

My computer has been controlled by my brain for years.

Yeah, the summary hits new highs (or lows, depending on how you're scoring) on self-contradictory gibberish: "is possible to manipulate complex visual images on a computer screen using only the mind. The study, published in Nature, found that when research subjects had their brains connected to a computer" by some complicated collection of hardware...

So apparently "only the mind" means "the brain plus some incredibly complicated hardware that we aren't going to count because, well, uh, BECAUSE!"

Re:brain interface pfft! (1)

Stregano (1285764) | more than 3 years ago | (#34053464)

I do like using the keyboard, because if it used my brain, that would be bad. I guess I am known as scatter-brained or whatever it is called where I will think of one idea and then jump to another idea before 1 is completed. Plus my mind has a mouth of a sailor when I am programming, and there is no need to for those words to appear on my screen

Re:brain interface pfft! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34056288)

You sound like the guy in 1947 that said "transistor pfft!", mentioning how everything could be done with vacuum tubes with the added benefit that you could see when the tube was defective.

I think you just do not understand how a direct brain interface would change the world. Yes, it will start as a somewhat clumsy replacement for existing interfaces, but the end result will be seamless computer integration in you thought processes. I.e. think of a mathematical problem and the answer will just pop up in your mind as if it was your own brain that came up with it.
That kind of thing is where this will eventually lead to.

As inevitable as this is... (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 3 years ago | (#34050788)

Thought-controlled computers are inevitable, but it could be pretty awkward. People already have trouble not saying what they want to only think to themselves, now people are going to have to control what they think before they think it? Oh shit. That's going to be really hard on men...

"Oh, hi Carol..." {don't think about boobs ... don't think about boobs... oh shit I'm thinking about boobs!}

"Uh, hi Bob... wait, why did your computer just start searching for 'huge boobs'?"

"Er... I uh..."

Luckily by the time thought-controlled interfaces are in common use, so too will be head-mounted displays and/or ocular feeds/implants to keep the 'display' out of others' view...

Re:As inevitable as this is... (1)

FiloEleven (602040) | more than 3 years ago | (#34054896)

Inevitable? Really?

It'll end up just like cold fusion and flying cars, IMO.

Re:As inevitable as this is... (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055258)

Inevitable. Really.

Quite frankly the only thing that could prevent it would be a worldwide nuclear holocaust, and even then I'm not so sure.

Cold fusion (as a sustainable source of power) may or may not be physically possible. Flying cars are a logistical nightmare.

Neural interfaces are obviously possible, and there are no insurmountable logistical or engineering barriers to their implementation, and the payoff is enormous, for the disabled especially but some significant degree for practically everybody. So there will be a development process, a high end to low end adoption process, and intergenerational gap of social adjustment, but otherwise, yes, absolutely inevitable.

Re:As inevitable as this is... (1)

FiloEleven (602040) | more than 2 years ago | (#34059036)

The gap between "concentrate very hard on some thing to make something simple happen" and "make the computer do what I want by thinking about it" is huge--I think it insurmountably huge. The optimism displayed strikes me as exactly the same sort that futurists had for flying cars decades ago. The term "logistical nightmare" seems perfectly apt to me. I recognize that I'm in the minority. I suppose time will tell.

Anyone want to place a bet? ;)

Years of Practice already Seen (3, Funny)

Trailwalker (648636) | more than 3 years ago | (#34050858)

The signals transmitted from each subject's brain to the computer were derived from just a handful of brain cells."

AKA: Posting

Thought-pad? (5, Funny)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34050886)

I'd want to be sure I have some pretty good filtering ... otherwise BOOBIES stray thoughts BOOBIES are going to be injecting BOOBIES themselves into BOOBIES what I'm doing and really BOOBIES mess things up.

Humans are SQUIRREL easily distracted, so if you're not BOOBIES careful, you're going to get MMMM ... CAKE some random activity.

Re:Thought-pad? (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34051124)

That's probably not how brain/computer interfaces actually work (converting concepts into words). More likely its like how some people can learn to controle their heart rate, or we all learn to controle our limbs. When given feedback and connected to a system which responds to certain brain activity, your brain will over time adapt to allow controle over that activity and the end result is that you "just do it" without consiously understanding how you do it.

The problem obviously is that computers are designed to take most of theri input in methods that are not corelated well with the use case for such an interface (text commands and mouse/touch events). Instead what will have to happen is a series of "thought" events will be needed to be added into standard operating systems which can then be handled by the software running on the computer. The trickey part of the interface design will be determaning which sorts of brain activity are useful as thought events and what program features it makes sence to tie to them.

Re:Thought-pad? (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34051148)

When given feedback and connected to a system which responds to certain brain activity, your brain will over time adapt to allow controle over that activity and the end result is that you "just do it" without consiously understanding how you do it.

Oh, sure. Suck all the fun out of it why don't you?

Re:Thought-pad? (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 3 years ago | (#34051932)

Yeah, too bad human behavior doesn't bear that abstraction out. Simple example: "Did I just say that out loud?" Just because we can train ourselves to operate in normal ways does not eliminate reflexes or prevent all mishaps of control. That's (in part) why people drop things. Just because somebody drops something doesn't mean they didn't learn how to use their limbs, it's just that any conscious act is prone to some percentage of failure due to failed concentration or incorrect estimation of parameters or something like that.

Even if thought-controlled systems are designed to account for human consciousness under normal conditions (which for them to be useful they would have to be), it would just take a bit of mental uncoordination to fumble some thoughts in the same way that somebody who normally moves things around just fine happens to fumble something one day. Unfortunately where an interface is concerned, you're not just dropping something, you could be reformatting your RAID or sending a death threat to the President at the speed of thought before you even realize it.

Re:Thought-pad? (1)

WillDraven (760005) | more than 3 years ago | (#34052514)

Yes, since brain-computer interfaces obviously mean the total eradication of "are you sure" prompts.

Re:Thought-pad? (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 3 years ago | (#34052688)

It will take an AI to figure out all the things we probably wouldn't want to do. Few email programs are set up to ask 'are you sure?' on just sending an email. As per my example above, the program would either have to be intelligent enough to recognize sending a death threat to the President would be a bad thing and ask confirmation for that specific action, or it would have to ask confirmation on every email sent indiscriminantly, which would be tedious and annoying as hell.

I think you are fundamentally failing to realize how many things are made deliberate through nothing less than the passage of time. Right now it would take a fair amount of time and conscious action to write a death threat to the President, but if that time barrier were removed and all you had to do was think it, the deliberate nature would become magnitudes fuzzier.

Re:Thought-pad? (1)

WillDraven (760005) | more than 3 years ago | (#34053248)

If all you have to do is think "yes" or "no no no no, oh shit, no" I doubt it will be too ponderous. One way or the other this theoretical interface we're talking about will require some new software. I'm fairly sure the people making it will have the idea "hey, what if I think something but didn't REALLY mean it" and code in an "are you sure" prompt. They could make it optional for the people who want to live dangerously.

Basically I see this as a non-issue unless you have a habit of thinking to yourself "email to president at whitehouse dot gov im going to kill you send yes"

Re:Thought-pad? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34052888)

You're invisioning a pretty stupid imlimentation of a through interface system. Under a well designed system, you'd need a chain of events to lead to a low frequence/high risk operation like reformating a drive. And undirected thought would result in something more closely resembling a cat walking across your keyboard than an "angry email to the president".

How often do people accidentally write and mail physical letters? or pick up a hammer and smash something on their desk? Those actions are more indicitive of the amount of effort required for a good brain/computer interface to perform analogus tasks (composing and sending an email, or deleting a file respectively).

Re:Thought-pad? (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 3 years ago | (#34053162)

Please see response above. [slashdot.org]

You too are vastly underestimating the speed and nature of thought as it relates to action. The reason people don't accidentally send letters or smash things is because it takes TIME to write letters or smash things. Imagine somebody who writes dozens to hundreds of emails a day at the speed of thought. Then something makes them mad and they wish somebody were dead. Right now, if they were to go so far as to start writing a death threat, most people would get a hold of themselves part way through and abort the effort. In a thought-controlled scenario, you thought it, it's done, almost instantly, just like all those dozens/hundreds of other twitter-short emails you thought-sent almost instantly all day. Are you getting it yet? Different paradigms, and it's not intuitive.

Re:Thought-pad? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34055544)

You're invisioning a pretty stupid imlimentation of a through interface system.

Or, seeing an example of one. Not sure.

Re:Thought-pad? (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34051944)

The trickey part of the interface design will be determaning which sorts of brain activity are useful as thought events and what program features it makes sence to tie to them.

We're slowly getting there. People have been able to do this sort of thing using just the brain-waves - not even really jacking into the brain or getting any direct signal from the brain but just by the effects of what your brain normally sends out. Like alpha waves are typically associated with being more relaxed and sleeping, and beta is supposed to be more awake and focused - things like that. There's actually a game at the local science center where you put on this little belt that goes around your head where a cap would sit and it reads the beta waves from you and your opponent, and you both basically sit there trying to out-alpha-wave each other. It's actually kind of fun - we weren't sure if this thing was just a sham or if it was really set up to work - but we noticed it got no readings when no one was wearing it, and when we tried to force one player to win (one person be relaxed while the other be focused) things worked in our favour nearly all of the time, so there is something to it.

A projects have been able to go a step further, taking certain brain-activity like hyper/calm mentality is one axis while attention/unfocused is another, because you can calmly focus on an object by simply looking at it in a general sense for its shape and properties whereas a focused hyper mentality would be more sporadicly looking at all the tiny details.

It's pretty neat stuff, at first things won't go how you want them to but it ends up being that you train your brain to work with the interface while the interface slightly adjusts itself to better cater to you.

Cake? (1)

antdude (79039) | more than 3 years ago | (#34053008)

"The cake is a lie." :P

Re:Cake? (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34053250)

"The cake is a lie." :P

But ... but ... it's cake. Cake doesn't lie. =)

Re:Cake? (1)

antdude (79039) | more than 3 years ago | (#34053312)

Prove it. Show me the cake. You will never get the cake! :)

Re:Cake? (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055076)

Pedantic grammar man, to the rescue! In this case the cake is not acting but being. A cake, being inanimate, inherently cannot act, only be acted upon. So you are correct to say that the cake cannot lie; however, that does not preclude the cake from being a lie. When a sentient actor purports that there is cake where there is in fact not cake, the cake can be said to be, as purported and conveyed, a lie. Of course there is no physical cake, so the 'being' is an abstraction, the concept as conveyed is false, a fraudulent fiction foisted forthwith from furtive fools for fun, forsooth!

Re:Cake? (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055334)

Sometimes, a cake is just a cake.

I've had cake, and that's no lie. ;-)

Re:Thought-pad? (1)

slick7 (1703596) | more than 3 years ago | (#34053114)

I'd want to be sure I have some pretty good filtering ... otherwise BOOBIES stray thoughts BOOBIES are going to be injecting BOOBIES themselves into BOOBIES what I'm doing and really BOOBIES mess things up.

Humans are SQUIRREL easily distracted, so if you're not BOOBIES careful, you're going to get MMMM ... CAKE some random activity.

The real acid test is to let G. Bush (either one) use it. If george can use it, destroy the damn thing. The thought pad not George, but on the other hand...

Re:Thought-pad? (1)

CCarrot (1562079) | more than 3 years ago | (#34055114)

Wow, that would be a whole new world for advertisers!

Talk about targeting based on keywords (keyconcepts?), so every time a 12-70yo male user is connected, they're saturated with product ads by whatever company bought the thought-concept BOOBIES...your targeted ads could be more revealing than ever before!

Count me Out (1)

dasacc22 (1830082) | more than 3 years ago | (#34050916)

Hell Im only 26 but I'll be damned if I go jacking my brain up into machine interfaces. Give me an old fashion mouse with a side of keys and stay off my lawn

Re:Count me Out (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34051122)

Hell Im only 26 but I'll be damned if I go jacking my brain up into machine interfaces. Give me an old fashion mouse with a side of keys and stay off my lawn

Attaboy. Us old timers won't be around for long, so someone has to keep the youngun's in line.

Re:Count me Out (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#34052566)

I'm with ya, kid. When the technology matures to the point you can just put on a funny hat and control the computer with your brain, THEN I'll be on board. But wires in my brain? No way.

Perfect for Slashdotters (1)

jamrock (863246) | more than 3 years ago | (#34050938)

The signals transmitted from each subject's brain to the computer were derived from just a handful of brain cells.

Which is a should be a relief for most people here. From what I've seen they only possess a handful of brain cells to begin with.

Seriously CmdrTaco? (1)

HeckRuler (1369601) | more than 3 years ago | (#34050984)

1) It from Anon.
2) It starts with "Move over (insert old product)"
3) A direct neural interfaces is the holy grail of computer input. There have been a lot of stories about it. This is not DNI. This is nowhere close. This is a small step, an important step. But the hype that surrounds these sort of stories is just appalling. And it's detrimental too. You jade the populace to scientific advancement and deliver them false hope.

Seriously, stop with the hype. I know it's exciting to live in the future, but try to temper it down when posting articles on Slashdot.

Too Cumbersome (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 3 years ago | (#34051020)

The core problem is that we don't think and visualize the way computers expect input.

If you want to try to get computers to do what we want based on our thoughts, and you've got Photoshop Brain installed, I could see eventually training users to be able to draw a damned good picture of a cat. Think really hard about a cat, and it'll appear on screen. Then, looking at that rough cat shape on screen, focus on specific areas and flesh out the details. Users would have to spend months or years learning to use the interface, and then learning to think and focus on concrete details and images, instead of the fuzzy, nebulous way we do now.

After all of that, we've got a decent cat.
But with no transparency, and on a single, flat layer, etc.

If you want to futz around with using your mind to control a virtual input device, there's really no point beyond activating simple triggers.

We can't get voice control to work for shit, and that's only based on the shit we say. The shit we think is far more scattered and nebulous.
Typing would probably never work.
But being able to think about a door control to open or close a door, or being able to turn lights on or off, etc. would be doable.

We already have systems that let disabled users use their mind to control a mouse and operate a PC. Typing is done via a virtual keyboard. We can definitely improve on this scenario, but I doubt we'll ever get meat to think like metal. Your average person is going to vastly prefer a mouse and keyboard in 20 years just as they do now.

Ready Electronic Thought Activation Reading Device (0, Troll)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 3 years ago | (#34051032)

"The signals transmitted from each subject's brain to the computer were derived from just a handful of brain cells"

This seems like the same amount of brain cells to do just about anything, except maybe winning a spelling contest at a Tea-party rally.

Just imagine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34051142)

Just imagine what you could accomplish with a brain full of hand cells.

The problem with tougth... (1, Insightful)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 3 years ago | (#34051190)

.. is that you cant avoid thinking. In voice controlled interfaces exist the problem of what happens when you talk with someone, but with tougth, is just worse. Imagine that the computer detect the pattern needed for some action when you watch porn, or read a particular word or phrase (that could get a new via for malware)

Re:The problem with tougth... (1)

bobaferret (513897) | more than 3 years ago | (#34051490)

I wonder if the way to get around the problem, is by requiring thought interfaces to always require a choice. Like in the article, I think that's where things get interesting. I once saw some show on Hawking's typing (maybe speaking) interface, and it consisted of predictive text. that showed him a choice of words or letters and narowed things down as he made choices. If the choices could be made to operate at the speed with which you though them, this might work. It might only work in specialized vocabulaires programming langues etc, but might be the way to go. And have the effect of keeping stray unrealted thoughts out of the stream. Just sort of seems like a start. What would have been interesting, is if they could have worked with dynamic choices/ pictures as opposed to a serires of prelocated pairs. At that point, you could them show them a list of words, buttons, etc to choose from.

Re:The problem with tougth... (1)

Zotov (1766696) | more than 3 years ago | (#34052050)

If only there was a big company willing to spend enormous resources to research what people usually "choose" and return those possible choices to us before we even finished "thinking" them. But that's just the stuff of fiction.

Re:The problem with tougth... (1)

TheClarkster (1130495) | more than 3 years ago | (#34052454)

I thought that your first tougth must have been a pretty bad typo. But then you said tougth again...

Re:The problem with tougth... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34052854)

Please people, have you guys ever used a BCI before? You learn to control one just as one learns to control an arm. You can think about moving an arm without actually moving it, just like you'll be able to (and already can) think of a BCI command without having the hardware pick up that command.

Your mind is always active, yet your arms aren't constantly flying around. Why do people think a BCI is different?

What does the software look like? (1)

Bergs007 (1797486) | more than 3 years ago | (#34051200)

I'd be more interested in learning how they implemented this in software. Is it just something like: if(brain.madeNoise == 1) then canvas.removeTopImage() else canvas.removeBottomImage() ? Or are there more complicated things going on here? I have trouble imagining that this is based off a normal touchpad interface, because there aren't any controls I'm aware of that can select between one of two overlaid figures....

Brain matters (3, Funny)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 3 years ago | (#34051224)

If you believe in telekinesis, raise my hand!

Re:Brain matters (1)

kj_in_ottawa (838840) | more than 3 years ago | (#34052722)

Step aside, or I'll have to use my telepathetic powers.

With increased freedom comes increased risk. (1)

windcask (1795642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34051236)

If you can control a computer using your mind, who says the computer won't be able to read (or even control) your mind without your knowledge someday? We're giving up too much personal information today already; there will be a time when we need to stand up for privacy and limit interactions with our devices to physical manipulation only...

Re:With increased freedom comes increased risk. (1)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 3 years ago | (#34052324)

Hey, at that point your tin-foil hat might even be considered almost rational!

We'll see in 30 years (2, Funny)

redemtionboy (890616) | more than 3 years ago | (#34051310)

Consider touchscreens were invented in the 1970s at the University of Kentucky, and they haven't hit true widespread usage until the past few years, I'm not expecting to see this on the market anytime soon.

Guess Think pad was taken? (1)

xednieht (1117791) | more than 3 years ago | (#34051416)

I thought I taw a putty tat

video about the experiment (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 3 years ago | (#34051432)

"Thought projection by neurons in the human brain" from NatureVideoChannel

Video report from the authors [youtube.com]

Re:video about the experiment (1)

mapkinase (958129) | more than 3 years ago | (#34051602)

I am not sure if this article in Nature is free or not, but I found it more scientific than the daily med:

'Marilyn Monroe' neuron aids mind control [nature.com]

Re:video about the experiment (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 3 years ago | (#34054720)

There's also the actual research abstract:

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v467/n7319/abs/nature09510.html [nature.com]

On-line, voluntary control of human temporal lobe neurons

Moran Cerf, Nikhil Thiruvengadam, Florian Mormann, Alexander Kraskov, Rodrigo Quian Quiroga, Christof Koch & Itzhak Fried

Nature 467 , 1104–1108 (28 October 2010) doi:10.1038/nature09510
Received 08 January 2010 Accepted 14 September 2010 Published online 27 October 2010

Daily life continually confronts us with an exuberance of external, sensory stimuli competing with a rich stream of internal deliberations, plans and ruminations. The brain must select one or more of these for further processing. How this competition is resolved across multiple sensory and cognitive regions is not known; nor is it clear how internal thoughts and attention regulate this competition1, 2, 3, 4. Recording from single neurons in patients implanted with intracranial electrodes for clinical reasons5, 6, 7, 8, 9, here we demonstrate that humans can regulate the activity of their neurons in the medial temporal lobe (MTL) to alter the outcome of the contest between external images and their internal representation. Subjects looked at a hybrid superposition of two images representing familiar individuals, landmarks, objects or animals and had to enhance one image at the expense of the other, competing one. Simultaneously, the spiking activity of their MTL neurons in different subregions and hemispheres was decoded in real time to control the content of the hybrid. Subjects reliably regulated, often on the first trial, the firing rate of their neurons, increasing the rate of some while simultaneously decreasing the rate of others. They did so by focusing onto one image, which gradually became clearer on the computer screen in front of their eyes, and thereby overriding sensory input. On the basis of the firing of these MTL neurons, the dynamics of the competition between visual images in the subject’s mind was visualized on an external display.

Lucky for me (1)

cvtan (752695) | more than 3 years ago | (#34051518)

I only have a handful of brain cells left.

Watch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34051538)

i am doing this right now...watch

Just a handful? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34051724)

A handful holds quite a lot of brain cells

Thank you Linkbait! (1)

dogzilla (83896) | more than 3 years ago | (#34051868)

Yes, definitely a clear and direct line between manipulating images on a screen in the lab and the iPad. I think Apple should immediately shutter its iPad business right now, as this will clearly disrupt next quarter's iPad sales. Does every idiot on the net have to somehow blabber "iPod","iPhone" or "iPad" when they want attention?

Re:Thank you Linkbait! (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 3 years ago | (#34052046)

Since your reference to the terms "iPod", "iPhone", and "iPad" are the very first ones in the discussion thread, and none of them appears in either the original article or the summary, I'd have to allow you to answer that for yourself.

Did you, in fact, have to blabber those three terms to get attention?

Because no one else did.

Or are you confusing the term "touchpad" with an Apple product?

Convenient... (1)

Syberz (1170343) | more than 3 years ago | (#34051978)

From the article:

[...] had fine wires implanted in their brains [...]

Right, because plugging YOUR BRAIN to a computer is so much more convenient than gliding your finger on the screen.

Re:Convenient... (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#34054282)

yeah, it's still a touch screen. instead of touching UI with a finger, you have to touch it with *your fucking brain*. and it's sharp and pointy and stabs its way in too. big improvement. how about a car jack I have to operate with my scrotum?

MA]RE (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34052336)

I can't wait... (1)

SilasMortimer (1612867) | more than 3 years ago | (#34052998)

...for the iThought. Or maybe, simply for iRony's sake, it'll be called the iThink.

Requires surgery (1)

BenVis (795521) | more than 3 years ago | (#34054232)

Nature news itself covers this story a little better here [nature.com] .

You might be interested to know that the volunteers for this study were patients with severe epilepsy, and the neural recordings were from electrodes actually inserted into the patients' brains. Similar work has been done recording from the brains of e.g., monkeys in order to control a robotic arm (rather than control a video display). This involves invasive surgery that wouldn't be done unless there was also a medical necessity for it.

THought-pad?! (1)

Dreth (1885712) | more than 3 years ago | (#34057250)

ThinkPad!
...again

The FA text is misleading (1)

pinkushun (1467193) | more than 2 years ago | (#34060386)

... manipulate complex visual images on a computer screen using only the mind

First thing that came to mind was, "Ooh, editing photos with the GIMP!"

Handfull? What's new? (1)

tmh - The Mad Hacker (962953) | more than 2 years ago | (#34068382)

"The signals transmitted from each subject's brain to the computer were derived from just a handful of brain cells."

Isn't that usually the case anyway? :-)

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