The recent Time Magazine article Thought Control (subscription required) describes what is essentially another brain-computer interface. What’s novel about this device is that the EEG signal is monitored from dry electrodes on the arm or leg. The BodyWave® Brain Wave Monitoring (pdf) system developed by Freer Logic claims to allow measurement of brain wave activity away from the head:
BodyWave simply views brain energy as a field, collects the field energy as if the brain were a radio tower broadcasting from the brain and through the body.
For the purposes of teaching “stress control, increase attention, and facilitate peak mental performance”, this may well be an adequate method. Not having to wear the more traditional EEG head gear is certainly an advantage. Providing reliable control of computer interaction tasks via either “mind reading” method is not likely to happen any time soon (see Turning the Mind into a Joystick).
More “mind reading” hyperbole in today’s New York Times Magazine: The Cyborg in Us All.
I’ve talked about EEG-related technology many times in the past. Here are some quotes from the article:
This creates a pulse in his brain that travels through the wires into a computer. Thus, a thought becomes a software command.
We’re close to being able to reconstruct the actual music heard in the brain and play it.
… a “telepathy helmet” that would allow soldiers to beam thoughts to one another.
The NeuralPhone was meant to demonstrate that one day we might mind-control the contact lists on our phones.
The general public has two reactions when the lay press publishes this kind of stuff:
- I always knew this would come true. I.e. perpetuation of scientific fantasies.
- This is really scary stuff. I don’t want anybody reading my mind — or worse, controlling it.
If you know anything about the underlying techniques and algorithms you also know that “mind reading” and useful brain-controlled interfaces
are a long way off. Because the article fails to provide any sort of time-frame perspective, why won’t someone think these capabilities exist now.
The real problem I have with these kinds of articles is that this is important work that could potentially improve the quality of life for many disabled individuals. Hyping it up to be something it’s not doesn’t help anyone.
One more quote:
“This is freaky.” And it was.
Huh? … I think the NYT needs to improve their editorial oversight.
There have been some interesting EEG related stories lately:
I’ve followed BCI: Brain Computer Interface and EEG work for a long time. There is still a long way to go on the “mind reading” front, but these types of developments are all encouraging.