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Scientists Demonstrate Thought-Controlled Computer

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the a-little-crude-for-decking dept.

Technology 172

Da Massive writes with a link to ComputerWorld coverage of a unique gadget shown at this past week's CeBit show. The company g.tec was showing off a brain/computer interface (BCI) in one corner of the trade hall. The rig, once placed on your head, detects the brain's voltage fluctuations and can respond appropriately. This requires training, where "the subject responds to commands on a computer screen, thinking 'left' and 'right' when they are instructed to do so ... Another test involves looking at a series of blinking letters, and thinking of a letter when it appears." Once the system is trained, you can think letters at the machine and 'type' via your thoughts. Likewise, by thinking directions you can move objects around onscreen. The article provides some background on the history of g.tec's BCI, and suggests possible uses for the technology in the near future.

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Could lead to problems (5, Funny)

cyberbob2351 (1075435) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395479)

Now when you think about composing a nasty hate letter to your evil ex-girlfriend, it actually happens!

Re:Could lead to problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18395781)

Now when you think about composing a nasty hate letter to your evil ex-girlfriend, it actually happens!

Let us hope then that they keep the people with control of the missiles off of this. Even with redundancy it could be scary.

Re:Could lead to problems (4, Funny)

digitig (1056110) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395959)

Nah -- never be able to get the thing off porn sites for long enough to do a letter.

Re:Could lead to problems (4, Funny)

eck011219 (851729) | more than 7 years ago | (#18396263)

This is Slashdot -- there are no ex-girlfriends (or certainly current girlfriends) to worry about.

Type thoughts? (4, Interesting)

vertinox (846076) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395501)

Once the system is trained, you can think letters at the machine and 'type' via your thoughts.

That sounds rather cool, but wouldn't thinking words be faster?

When I think when I type I think the entire words and my hands type them without spelling the words out. (Kind of like playing the piano)

Of course I suppose this requires training the computer for several thousands words, but it would be having to think the actual spelling out of words at least speed wise.

Re:Type thoughts? (1)

oldmanpanda (716466) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395531)

Exactly, human beings don't think in letters. We think words, concepts, even ideas at a time. Just imagine sounding out words letters at a time. It would have taken me three times as long to write this, but I guess we can look forward to a world where people are better at spelling.... or maybe just one where AOLer speak reigns supreme. Lol.

Re:Type thoughts? (1)

drseuss9311 (789400) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395741)

I was just thinking in this same vein. It would be nice for it to learn words as well as letters. Then phrases etc etc etc.

But will it need to be trained on everyone? That could be a limiting factor. If you've got to train this thing for everyone then it's like the speech to text stuff (i'm thinking 'dragon speaking' software here). That would be a pain to train, but worth it when you've done the training...

if it can learn words, numbers and phrases as well as just letters.

HOWEVER: the way they've described the BCI it seems that it should be able to 'learn' and brainwave if it were programmed to do so.

[insert cliche closing statement/pun here]

Re:Type thoughts? (2, Insightful)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395767)

Wouldn't it make a lot of sense if you could just train it once, and then take your profile with you on a USB key? That way you wouldn't have to train the work computer, the home computer, the new laptop, the computer in the internet cafe, or any of the other computers you deal with on a daily basis.

Re:Type thoughts? (1)

BillyBlaze (746775) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395899)

Even better, just make a USB doohickey that appears to computers as a USB keyboard, which would have a standard adapter you could plug the electrodes into. The device could also train through that interface: you open up a text editor and put it in training mode, and it would type out any prompts it needs to give you. The only real problem is if the process is too CPU- or memory-intensive to run on a cheap embedded device.

Re:Type thoughts? (1)

cyberbob2351 (1075435) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395537)

It might work better if it were based on phoneme [] recognition.

That way, you might find a nice balance between the size of the training set and the speed in which words can be written.

Re:Type thoughts? (4, Informative)

linguizic (806996) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395655)

If we knew where each phoneme was stored in the brain and we could stimulate the computer via activity in this area all we would have to do is think about speaking the word. But things like allophones and the ranges of phonemes in different dialects would throw this off. No matter how dumb people may think southern speech is, it is actually hardwired into their nervous system via language acquisition and would have to be accounted for physiologically. It would probably be easier to have the nodes hooked up to the part of our brains that's responsible for controlling our fingers when we type, the amount of variability found in dialects gets reduced quite a bit just by removing the vocal element of language, even if you're Cletus.

Re:Type thoughts? (1)

Flendon (857337) | more than 7 years ago | (#18396167)

No matter how dumb people may think southern speech is, it is actually hardwired into their nervous system via language acquisition and would have to be accounted for physiologically.

That is why each new user has to train the device all over again. Even if you think in a different dialect it doesn't matter. The computer learns the patterns produced by each individual brain as they think of whatever letter, and in the future word or phoneme, they are being prompted for.

Re:Type thoughts? (1)

linguizic (806996) | more than 7 years ago | (#18396217)

I think you're giving the software too much credit. All-in-all going the phoneme route requires too much work when we already have a system that minimizes regional language variation.

Re:Type thoughts? (1)

kdemetter (965669) | more than 7 years ago | (#18396383)

the problem with thinking words is that you may end up thinking about something related , so you would get a lot of garbage in the text .

for example : you may think "food" and immediately imagine a pizza so you would get "food pizza" instead of just "food" .

Or does it filter this out somehow ?

now if i can just find my tinfoil hat .

Re:Type thoughts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18395543)

If it's possible to configure it to type words as you thought them, it also seems like it would have the added benefit (over voice-controlled typing) of not getting homonyms mixed up. When you mentally think "their", it seems like your brain would trigger a different impulse than when thinking "there".

Of course, these days most people think that "should of" is the proper contraction of "should" and "have", so we'd still run into the same problems...

Re:Type thoughts? (1)

Andrew Aguecheek (767620) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395549)

Well, since you think the words as you type, what would stop a computer being trained by getting you to type out a few thousand words of prose? It would just have to match up your brain activity with typing a particular word.

Re:Type thoughts? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18395557)

Obviously somewhere in the brain the words are broken down into letters and the letters are broken down into individual hand movements when you type. There is no reason to stop using letters, you just have to signals that correspond to the correct letters when you want to type (which doesn't mean you have to be physically typing because I can imagine myself typing words correctly and at normal speed without moving my hands).

Re:Type thoughts? (1)

fmobus (831767) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395853)

I don't think so. There's no conclusive evidence that our brain thinks in terms of words/phonemes. This is ground for a lot of discussions, in what is called "Sapir-Worph Hypothesis" [] . Can mother-language restrict/influence thought process? We're not really sure about this yet (but my bets are on yes, it does have influence).

Re:Type thoughts? (1)

kickdown (824054) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395591)

The training for entire words could be quite effective if the subject you want to think/type about has a controlled, small vocabulary to keep the training base small.
Obvious application: coding - the number of reserved words in programming languages is small enough. Plus, using a good IDE that proposes you words, a simple thinking of "3" to select the third choice in the combo seems quite an attractive coding model to me

Re:Type thoughts? (5, Insightful)

Amonnil (874821) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395611)

I think it would take a whole lot longer to train the system to respond to the hundreds of thousands of words you might want to use, instead of the few dozen characters to spell everything out. It would probably be more likely to get words confused, as well. That being said, this technology is new, as it develops, I'm sure ways will be found to speed up communication. Things like the word-completion used in phones for texting would be an obvious start. For now, I'm impressed that it's possible to hunt-and-peck with a mental keyboard.

Re:Type thoughts? (2, Interesting)

blank axolotl (917736) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395699)

The signal is too weak to be able to differentialte between 1,000s of possible word 'brain patterns'.
It can differentiate the 26 letter 'brain patterns' with effort:

The system today is also quite slow -- even a trained system can "read" only 18 characters per minute, or three or four words.

What I think might be cool to try is placing a pack of electrodes in a nerve leading to a non-essential muscle somewhere. I would guess you can get a much more reliable signal that way (if you set it up right), and maybe a more complex signal if that nerve carries multiple signals (eg one for each muscle in a pack of muscles). It would have much greater medical consequences than this brain-cap idea, though..

Re:Type thoughts? (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395857)

What blank axolotl said. This is a new technology. It can only handle a limited set of signals, since it only reads from a small number of inputs. Give it time, and miniaturization will allow it to handle more and eventually be faster than typing.

Your question is kind of like asking the people working on ENIAC, hey, wouldn't it be a lot easier just to train a computer to find the right panel on a multiplication table?

A vocabulary of 1000 words to start would be good. (1)

DarrenR114 (6724) | more than 7 years ago | (#18396431)

According to the current research, the average middle class person actually only uses a vocabulary of 1251. An "impoverished" individual uses an average vocabulary of 615 words. A professional uses an average vocabulary of 2,153 words.

An idea for research would be to use a Statistical Language Model, with the Hidden Markov Modelling against "Brainwave Models", as opposed to "Acoustic Models", to create a system that does not need training. I'm thinking something like "Sphinx 4" - only for brainwaves, not soundwaves.

Not Quite.... (5, Informative)

ThePopeLayton (868042) | more than 7 years ago | (#18396815)

I saw this exact device in action at the Annual Society for Neuroscience meeting last October in Atlanta Georgia. I spent about an hour talking to the group that were displaying the device. It uses EEG technology to detect voltage potentials across the skin (caused by inputs into layer 4 of the cortex). The tech who explained the device to me told me that current EEG analysis is not good enough to detect what a person is thinking about, rather it can detect IF a person is thinking.

The device does not recognize thoughts about specific letters, rather it recognizes general thought. The person has a grid of electrodes on the scalp that are measuring the voltage. The person then looks at a computer screen that displays groups of letters.

A band like "A D T E R K" is displayed and the person is instructed to count every band that appears that contains the desired letter. So if the person wants to type an "S" then upon seeing the band "S T V W K N" they would register having seen the S and the process of counting produces a large enough EEG signal that it is logged by the computer. The computer then displays separate bands that contain no more then one letter from the first band. Bands like " T D E I M" or "S B C X Z" might appear and as the second band contains an S the person would count it and produce the EEG signal. The computer then looks for the common elements between the bands and as S is the only common element the letter S is typed.

So again the computer isn't reading specific thoughts, rather just general thinking. The subject doesn't think "K" and then K is typed rather the computer displays a K and the person confirms the choice by thinking.

This display process is very fast (about 1 band a second) but it is rather a slow process to write. It takes around 5 or 6 minutes to write a sentence. It isn't as great as the article makes it seem, but it certainly is a step in the right direction.

OMFG (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18395503)

I want this for when I'm too lazy to type or use a mouse.

Re:OMFG (3, Funny)

(Robo_Bro) (1009507) | more than 7 years ago | (#18396079)

Too lazy? You mean both your hands are busy...

This could make for a cool video game controller. (2, Interesting)

BitterOak (537666) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395507)

How long before someone patents the idea of using this for a video game controller? Imagine how cool it would be for your kids and their friends to sit in front of the TV wearing helmets and playing a video game without using their hands!

Re:This could make for a cool video game controlle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18395515)

So they can get even fatter? Wasn't part of the idea of the Wii controller to combat this sort of thing?

Re:This could make for a cool video game controlle (2, Funny)

cyberbob2351 (1075435) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395573)

Simpsons did it []

Re:This could make for a cool video game controlle (1)

Easy2RememberNick (179395) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395583)

I believe there is, or was, already a game that used your thoughts or it may have measured galvanic skin response, it was called Mind Bowling.

Re:This could make for a cool video game controlle (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18396067) ePack/ []

There is actually a suite of games, FEATURING DEEPAK CHOPRA!!

Re:This could make for a cool video game controlle (2, Interesting)

ryblo_f (917128) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395681)

Everything old [] is new again?

Re:This could make for a cool video game controlle (1)

xdotx (966421) | more than 7 years ago | (#18396195)

Just what we needed- another common, practically effortless idea being patented for profit via monopoly.

Otherwise, yes, I agree, this would make an interesting game controller. But honestly, I'd be surprised if the technology was able to evolve to the point that it would be feasible as a good replacement for regular, hand-held controllers. At least, by the time -my- kids would be here. Although, that's not to say a somewhat primitive version of the technology might not work in small-to-medium doses- eq the Wii controller.

Prior Art (1)

DarrenR114 (6724) | more than 7 years ago | (#18396503)

My son laid out just such an idea for a fourth-grade project. That was 1.5 years ago. So, if someone tries just such an obvious move - remember this comment and let me know. We'll get it nullified real quick.

Re:This could make for a cool video game controlle (1)

Anonymous MadCoe (613739) | more than 7 years ago | (#18396507)

I think you mean: []

It's been around for a long time, butnever took off, still not sure what to think of that...

And if you augent that (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 7 years ago | (#18396633)

with a biofeedback that makes them feel like they are jumping and add a sunlamp to the ceiling so they think they're in the sun, they can have a virtual session on the trampoline without even going outside and getting any of that boring exercise stuff!

Cmon folks! Games are already way to attractive to kids. We should be doing things to get them a bit more active.

Re:This could make for a cool video game controlle (1, Insightful)

ArikTheRed (865776) | more than 7 years ago | (#18396893)

I'm more concerned about someone patenting "thought" as a "proprietary interface".

But... (5, Funny)

rbochan (827946) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395509)

Do you have to think in Russian?

Re:But... (2, Funny)

Tx (96709) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395587)

Which segues nicely into the obligatory joke...

In Soviet Russia, the computers thoughts control YOU!

Ok, I'll go now.

Re:But... (1)

maeka (518272) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395759)

Do you have to think in Russian?

People are apparently missing the joke. []

Re:But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18395761)

Only if you are Clint Eastwood

Re:But... (1)

linguizic (806996) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395847)

And you're using firefox.

A little pricey (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18395529)

Starting at 26,000 US, this might appeal to PS3 buyers, but most will find this too pricey.

Already have one (5, Funny)

SmlFreshwaterBuffalo (608664) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395551)

I SEX typed SEX this SEX using SEX my SEX own SEX BCI-controlled SEX computer. SEX It SEX really SEX works SEX great!

Re:Already have one (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18395633)

You're totally a woman, aren't you?

Re:Already have one (3, Funny)

Lordpidey (942444) | more than 7 years ago | (#18396565)

No, but CHEATER, I am, YOU LOOKED AT HER, its quite I'M JEALOUS the interesting YOU MUST BE CHEATING technology. I'm sure DOES THIS MAKE ME LOOK FAT that this will transform the world.

Fucking marketers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18395787)

Great, now I have a sudden desire to buy things.

A-And I need to call my mother.

Minor Problem (5, Funny)

dduardo (592868) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395603)

*Fred temporarily switches to root in order to edit an /etc file. John comes by to talk.

John: Hey Fred, have you heard that new indie band called R.M. SPACE STAR ENTER?
Fred: What? No! Why did you make me think that?! Now all my files are being deleted!

Re:Minor Problem (5, Interesting)

Loconut1389 (455297) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395739)

funny joke aside- when you're not typing and someone talks to you, do you accidentally type what you're saying/thinking? That's not to say we don't accidentally type things we're saying if we're already typing-- but I think the way this works is, it would be a separate 'extension' of ourselves- just like we 'think' about moving our fingers to type- this would be thinking the letters into the computer.

Re:Minor Problem (3, Funny)

loconet (415875) | more than 7 years ago | (#18396145)

Or better yet.. Fred's terminal beeps to the sound of ..

Fred@mindreader:/etc$ viAh shit, here comes that idiot John. What the fuck does he want again, I really don't care about his disturbing fascination with obscure indie bands, why don't they transfer his pompous ass to accounting.....ah crap
bash: viAh: command not found
John: What is that on your screen? ...

Re:Minor Problem (1)

atamyrat (980611) | more than 7 years ago | (#18396175)

Oh I was about to configure settings when I read your joke!

Why did you tell me that?! Now all my files are being deleted!!!!

p.s. format c: enter y enter

And now, much as the gods tried to prevent this... (2, Funny)

sugapablo (600023) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395607)

Stephen Hawking will now take over the world!

Beware those of you who dared park in handicap spaces!

Re:And now, much as the gods tried to prevent this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18395811)

I for one welcome our computer enhanced...

...I'm sorry folks I just couldn't bring myself to finish the meme. I have to admit that I've been the sole perpetrator of this plague. I'm sorry. I've been doing it as a desperate attempt to get mod points because my mommy didn't give me enough attention as a child. I tried many catch phrases like "Hey! Wha' Happend?", and "I can't do wo-o-o-k", hell I even tried "bucka bucka" and "woozle wuzzle", all to no avail. Once I found one that worked I stuck with it. I'm sorry, I'll never do it again.

Results of thought-transcription demo! (4, Funny)

argent (18001) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395619)

Dear aunt, let's set so double the killer delete select all.

Re:Results of thought-transcription demo! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18396197)

Link, to get his inside joke: []

PERL scripting the voice recognition way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18396455)

Because my link about the failed MS demo joke isn't as funny as this: []

Mindreading Overloads... (0, Redundant)

TheEnlightenedOne (984385) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395627)

I, for one, welcome our mind reading overloards!

Re:Mindreading Overloads... (1)

TheEnlightenedOne (984385) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395669)


What I'd like to do with this (1)

ringworlder (867462) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395629)

Really, doing anything at all just by thinking it would be very, very cool, but it would be even better to use it to control some large machinery. Maybe a car, or a backhoe. Imagine reaching out with the backhoe and lifting a boulder!

A morality tale... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18395651)

A man sits silently staring at a screen, programming structures appearing and shifting before his eyes, snapping between UI and code development. Little error icons and text appear momentarily as he rapidly alters the program to eliminate them.

Suddenly, he stops. He cringes, and hissingly says to no one in particular "Aag! Brain cramp. Third time today."

He goes to the doctor, who mandates he take a day of medical leave while he confers with another doctor. He gets the result: Mental Tunnel Syndrome. Over-use of particular over-grown nerve pathways and signals the mental signaling equipment relies upon to interpret his intent. He'll have to learn to work with new mental commands to his programming interface, which should dramatically slow down his development in the near-term, a setback many programmers don't recover from.

"I was afraid this would happen. That's what happens when you make your entire programming interface out of [censored sexual reference] thoughts - I mean, it was fun at first, and it DID help me get interested in pursuing a career in development, but damn... I just don't know if I'll be able to work in another mental framework now."

The moral of the story: When establishing your first neural language interface, be somewhat careful which thoughts you pick as a baseline.

Other possible issues (1)

SmlFreshwaterBuffalo (608664) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395665)

So what happens if someone with ADHD tries to program in C with this? Can you enter the result in the Obfuscated C Code Contest [] ?

Miniluv anyone? (2, Interesting)

logixoul (1046000) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395673)

/tinfoil hat on
Now that a machine can translate thoughts into words, how long before it's used in interrogations? What about sensitivity becoming good enough to work from a few meters? Inconspicuous guy passes by. Next thing you know, you love big brother.

Re:Miniluv anyone? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395747)

Inconspicuous guy passes by. Next thing you know, you love big brother..

More likely, he now knows you like underage women.

Re:Miniluv anyone? (1)

logixoul (1046000) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395969)

Of course I do, I'm 17 ;)
Seriously, connect the dots:
  1. passer by is a law enforcer;
  2. thoughts display treason, which needs to be cured;
  3. profit!!

Re:Miniluv anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18396599)

Of course I do, I'm 17 ;)

Get a life you cock sucking nigger fuck.

Re:Miniluv anyone? (1)

feepness (543479) | more than 7 years ago | (#18396295)

Now that a machine can translate thoughts into words, how long before it's used in interrogations?

Think of the FIRST letter of your contact's name?!!! Ok, now think of the SECOND letter of your contact's name!!!??

Seriously though, this a thought-controlled computer, not a thought-control computer. I think it would be better than torture.

Just what we need (1)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395683)

A computer to control our thoughts.

Re:Just what we need (2, Informative)

logixoul (1046000) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395713)

Other way round ;)

Re:Just what we need (3, Funny)

iminplaya (723125) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395753)

See? It's working already. That's what they want you to think.

Question! (1)

Phyvo (876321) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395693)

Could some informed person tell me why they forced people to move objects by thinking "left" and "right" rather than reading the neural impulse to move your hand or something?

Is it more difficult than reading words? Do disabled people forget the neural impulses needed to move their limbs?

Re:Question! (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395725)

I didn't RTFA, but I'm guessing people born disabled never acquired the impulses needed to move their limbs.

Re:Question! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18396143)

I didn't RTFA either... but if they were reading the neural impulse to move your hand left or right.... what would be the point?!! You're hand would move left or right and you might as well just be moving your mouse... I mean come on...

and not all disabled people knew how to move their limbs in the first place...

Re:Question! (1)

Hrodgare (583263) | more than 7 years ago | (#18396595)

The signal is very noisy, especially when read through the skull. It's hard to get high-frequency information out of it, so they focus on low-dimensional data. It's not so much "reading" left or right, as training people to change their brain activity so that the system can read a simple value. There is a lot more high-frequency data when the sensors are applied directly to the brain, but that is a touch dangerous, and mostly only done in people with patients who have severe epilepsy to localize the source of the seizure. My understanding is that without proper filtering, the strongest signal is often 60 hz coming from the power supply...

Re:Question! (1)

wrfelts (950027) | more than 7 years ago | (#18396903)

If it were being translated into actual motion (ie robotic prosthetics), instead of left-arrow right-arrow, that would make sense. When you are "typing" you don't want to accidentally swat your neighbor. You are wanting to move something that does not necessarily correspond with body movement.

If this technology gains enough maturity, you should be able to think in modes that correspond to prosthetics, automobiles, earth moving equipment, airplanes, etc... Each mode could be distinct. A left for one mode may mean a slightly different thing as a left for another. So would "lift off and hover 10 feet up"... "now accelerate to sub-light speed..."

This sort of control, if achieved, could bring about novice control systems for complex machinery such as exoskeletons, airplanes, boats, plutonium handlers, etc...

Nothing so new about that... (1)

falken0905 (624713) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395765)

IIRC, something similar [] was done in 1985.

Re:Nothing so new about that... [url correction] (1)

falken0905 (624713) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395855)

Oops, here's the correct url [] .
(I must be lame cuz I can't figure out how to edit my own ^#%$* post)

Re:Nothing so new about that... [url correction] (2, Informative)

QuickFox (311231) | more than 7 years ago | (#18396027)

Don't worry, you're not lame. Posts can't be edited on Slashdot.

Exo Suits (1)

CriminalNerd (882826) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395795)

If that technology gets on a super-exo-suit, warfare as we know would change drastically.

What? (5, Interesting)

Bwana Geek (1033040) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395813)

This is in no way new technology. Neurofeedback has been studied since the twenties. I studied this about 10 years ago, and my professor was active in the field, so I got to learn about all kinds of cool stuff they were doing. Basically (probably starting around the 70s or 80s), researchers could wire you up to an EEG biofeedback machine and put you in front of a monitor with several bars or other graphics on it. They would then tell you something like, "Make the third bar grow higher." This would be done by, for example, increasing your brain's beta waves, but you had to figure out on your own how to do that by concentrating until the screen did what you wanted it to do. For children, they made it into a game: A plane is flying along the horizon and you need to make it rise and fall to avoid obstacles. Some very cool stuff with fantastic real world applications: Teaching epileptics how to alter teir brain wave patterns to stop a seizure before it starts, methods of fighting depression without drugs, etc. the list goes on.

It's fascinating stuff, and definitely recommended reading if you can find any material on it.


Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18395975)

mod parent up

Sounds like speech recognition software (1)

PingXao (153057) | more than 7 years ago | (#18395865)

If it's as accurate I can't wait to fly in a plane that's controlled this way. I am extremely skeptical of getting any accuracy from this setup. The state-of-the-art in speech recognition software is about the same as it was a decade ago, and machines are 50 times as fast with 8 times as much memory. Yet, quality has failed to improve measurably, and by "measurably" I mean the amount of time I have to spend cleaning up the text in a word processor after the speech has been "recognized". For that matter, does any OCR software - which has been around even longer than speech recognition software - work well enough that you don't have to spend a minute per page cleaning up after it?

This is a promising field, no doubt, and I hope researchers continue to work on it. But if past is prologue, I'm not holding my breath until it's really, really useful technology.

Why? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18395909)

Why is my screen blank?

Cosmic Truth (2, Funny)

BRUTICUS (325520) | more than 7 years ago | (#18396019)

Is there some kind of cosmic constant that depicts if ever there is anything interesting in the news no photograph or video of the subject should be made viewable?

Serioously.. WHERES THE VIDEO?

While you're at it I want the pictures of the frozen Mammoth and the gigantic Ape creature too.


Re:Cosmic Truth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18396245)

Here you go: []

I don't think they are quite close to a mass-produced thingy. Who would *wear* that thing ?

Old. (0)

Jartan (219704) | more than 7 years ago | (#18396099)

This is very old tech. A lot of people have tried to use this sort of thing to control a cursor or whatever. It's hard to make the idea really work though. You could be trying to learn to control it but instead all you learn to do is move your scalp muscles and the resulting signals would make the cursor move. Cool but not sustainable since the muscles would tire out.

I hope some day they get it working (minus the brain reading parts) but this article doesn't talk about whether or not these guys have done anything new unfortunately.

Good for repetitive-stress injury sufferers (1)

Digital Pizza (855175) | more than 7 years ago | (#18396135)

If they can get the "typing" speed up to something reasonable, this system could allow for those who've suffered from tendonitis or carpal-tunnel syndrome to keep working.

A friend of mine is on disability and working only part time due to severe tendonitis caused by typing, and I know he'd jump at the chance to use this if it meant that he could go back to working full time. (Getting disability payments in California is like pulling teeth every month, and you definately have to "lawyer-up" to get them.)

Re:Good for repetitive-stress injury sufferers (0)

twitter (104583) | more than 7 years ago | (#18396207)

Oh yeah, instead they will get headaches.

Re:Good for repetitive-stress injury sufferers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18396667)

Tell your friend to take a look at Glucosamine/Chondroitin/MSM (worked for me).

Yes (-1, Offtopic)

musther (961493) | more than 7 years ago | (#18396181)

but does it work on Linux?

But really, does this work with a standard PC, is it just a USB human interface device which will work on any machine you plug it into, or is it some funny proprietary thingy?

Brain wave sensor (1, Interesting)

Sanat (702) | more than 7 years ago | (#18396293)

A few years ago I attended a party that someone had brought a brain wave scanner. The device attached to the head via some suction cups as I recall. The box measured the frequencies of the mind for both the left side and the right side and indicated the relative strength on a scale of 0-10 (using Leds) for each frequency band (about 20 bands).

We had a lot of fun playing with it. For instance, when meditating... decreases in the Beta ranges and increases the Alpha ranges would occur and that kind of thing. Each person had their own uniques readings where some were mainly right brained and others were left and usually just in the beta ranges causing those corresponding Leds to illuminate.

When they asked me to try it, All 10 Leds for every frequencies band for both the left side and the right side illuminated. It was like the whole board lit up. Every single Led was lit which was approximately 400 or so.

Everyone looked at me a little weirdly and actually took a step backwards.

It would be interesting to see if other slashdotters also use all of their brain all of the time.

Did you... (2, Funny)

TheCouchPotatoFamine (628797) | more than 7 years ago | (#18396929)

..also have a guy bring a toy that would make a women's clothes jump five feet to the right? you know, with a warm cup of coffee?

you go, you!

faster and easier to wiggle a finger (2, Informative)

HuguesT (84078) | more than 7 years ago | (#18396399)

Current research papers put a EEG-based BCI throughput limit at about 30bpm. This is bits per minute. 18bpm has actually been achieved. This is because it is rather hard to alter one's beta waves : one need to concentrate for about 2s or more to make a change (flip a bit) reliably. EEG is what the linked article talks about.

With this kind of throughput one can compose no more than a couple of sentences a day. Clearly this is not going to replace typing for most people anytime soon. Even if one is severely impaired by some brain damage (e.g. a stroke) even a little bit of retained mobility is better. There was for instance this man who manage to write a whole book (the diving bell and the butterfly [] ) through his fluttering eyelid.

However different techniques are being developed. The best in terms of throughput and quality of data make use of f-MRI and other advanced techniques, or are very invasive (actual electrodes in the brain), and clearly this is not going to be possible as a usable tool for most people anytime soon either.

Check back in a few years. Right now BCI is definitely pie-in-the-sky, although it does sound cool.

Medical purposes (2, Interesting)

sabernet (751826) | more than 7 years ago | (#18396441)

Very awesome news for quadriplegics or those suffering full blown paralysis.

I'm curious (1)

The Orange Mage (1057436) | more than 7 years ago | (#18396777)

I'm curious to see what the user data would yield in terms of people's innate mental differences. For example, let's take a simple two dimensional movement program using this technology. One person would control it by concentrating with his eyes, while someone else would do it by concentrating on the word, while others may have other ways of doing it. The fact that this is both recorded by a computer and able to be verbalized by the user makes for interesting stuff, no?

This + Optical Tracking (1)

Scamwise (174654) | more than 7 years ago | (#18396837)

Add an optical tracking device to record where your looking, read the Lord of The Rings eBook while the computer records your brainwaves for every word you look at and Viola! your computers vocabulary is ready to using full word recognition.
I am sure its not that easy but you get the idea.

Using one right now (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 7 years ago | (#18396853)

I just thought to make this posting and here it is on the screen, using a brain-computer interface called my hands and a keyboard.

A New Low..... (1)

IHC Navistar (967161) | more than 7 years ago | (#18396901)

And to think that we couldn't get our porn fast enough.....

try the open source version (1)

fcc3 (970783) | more than 7 years ago | (#18396907)

Build your own eeg machine, or buy a kit, and use open source software with it. Help the project out: [] .

Easier Way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18396915)

I read someone's reply about using the neural impulses of actually moving your hand instead of saying "left" and "right", and this got me thinking - wouldn't it be easier still to move your hand as if you were moving a mouse, it would read the signals and move the cursor on the screen. Of cause, some people may feel more comfortable actually holding a mouse when moving their hand.
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