Monday, August 9, 2010

The UI for which You Will Shave Your Head

Researchers from down under in Australia want to bring the user interface up on top -- the top of your head, that is.

While it evokes images of Star Trek Borgs and jacked-in softies from William Gibson's matrix stories, a new "brain-reading" headset may just change the way we work with computers.  The tagline for the Emotiv EPOC brain-computer interface is "you think, therefore, you can."

Because each brain is different, Emotiv EPOC comes with software for calibrating each individual's thoughts.  You select a mental activity (e.g., pull, push, go left, go right, or disappear) and think about doing it for a few seconds while the application listens in on your brain's neural snaps, crackles, and pops.  Using EEG signals from the headset, the software records your brain-wave patterns. 

When you use other software, the headset watchs your EEG for similar activities, decides on your mental objective, and passes that command to your computer application ("Hey, WoW!  The gamer is thinking about moving to the right!").

In addition to capturing brainwaves, the headset watches for head tilting and facial movements that can be passed along as commands to an application.  One practical example of use would be for an individual in a wheelchair who is unable to use a joystick to control movement.  Instead, he or she can command the wheelchair to go left, right, straight, or back mentally and/or through head and facial movements.

While the technology's capabilities seem out of this world, its price is realistic -- just $299 for the headset and then some extra expenses for software that knows what to do with your brainwaves.  For developers and researchers, Emotiv offers a variety of software options, from a "lite" SDK for free download, all the way up to an "enterprise plus" development license for $7500.

You can watch a recorded live demonstration of the headset at the TED website.

If this really takes off, be prepared to see technology innovators with unique haircuts!

1 comment:

Andy said...

Your post reminded me of an earlier TEDTalk I watched regarding the role of technology in the healthcare of the future. If you haven't seen it, check it out here ( Pretty wild stuff. I can't wait to get old.

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