Let Your Brain Drive You Around

Even before touchscreens became a household necessity, we used to operate our computers and phones using keypads. Input methods for computing devices changed from primitive keypads to sophisticated touchscreens. Companies are now working towards hacking the human mind and using the brain signal to perform different operations. The trend is now moving towards an even more hassle-free experience by controlling devices such as smartphones and video games through thoughts, not gestures. What you need is a device that reads your thoughts in the form of neurological signals such as electroencephalography (EEG), magnetoencephalography (MEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). So, whether you want to turn your TV off, increase the volume of the music player, send a message to your friend or slow down your vehicle to enjoy that beautiful road trip, all you need to do is – think about it!

Nissan is working on a “Brain-to-Vehicle” technology that will let you control your car using brainwaves. The system enables a vehicle to predict the driver’s behavior by interpreting brain signals such as the desire to accelerate or turn the steering wheel. A wearable device measures the driver’s brainwave activity. The vehicle then performs the desired action based on the analyzed activity.

Last year, Facebook announced its ambition to develop a technology that enables brain-controlled typing and provides typing speed as fast as 100 words per minute.

While patents related to neurological signal monitoring have been present over a decade to determine user’s moods, emotions, responses, medical conditions and mental state and the demand for the brain signal monitoring have been on the rise, they are now moving towards making people do something actionable based on the monitored data. Patent US9078725B2 describes a system that determines a user’s intent for selecting items on a TV menu using an EEG interface that employs a wearable device and confirms the selection. Patent application US20150045007A1 discloses a method for interacting with a computer, smartphone, in-vehicle system or other electronic devices through the human mind.

FIG. 1 from US20150045007A1 shows the components of a mind-controlled virtual assistant on a smartphone device.

A similar patent US9864431B2 recently granted to Microsoft for a headband allows users to operate apps and control devices with just their brain. The device interprets neurological data such as the EEG to let users use apps with thoughts instead of gestures. As an example, the technology’s integration into its applications (like Microsoft Word) in the future would mean that you will not have to specify the source or destination formatting while copying data from a one-word file to another. Your computer will just know how you want it.

FIGS. 5C and 5D from US9864431B2 illustrate the application of Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) in 3D modeling.

Patent US9507974B1, granted to Hand Held Products Inc., describes a method for scanning item barcodes or switching the barcode reader on/off by detecting electromagnetic signals indicative of a user’s intent, the electromagnetic signals being received from a device that interfaces with the user’s nervous system.

Other applications of this technology could be in enhancing the driving experience, assisting astronauts in their space exploration, helping differently-abled individuals in controlling prosthetic limbs and apps, and helping kids with issues such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism and mood disorders. Even video games can be more mentally stimulating and realistic; the technology could enable players to control video game characters in virtual worlds. The applications are endless and so are the opportunities.

(Featured image is for representational purpose and has been sourced from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:EEG_recording.jpg)

Shagun Joshi
Shagun Joshi

A patent engineer by profession, Shagun likes the smell of old books. She has interest in reading about current technologies that can bridge the gap between reality and fiction.


Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *