Man Machine Interface
There has been some talk this month about the development of brain-computer interfaces. Forbes had an article referencing the research involving monkeys moving a cursor on a computer screen, using only their minds. The Tri-Valley Herald had an article about a Boston researcher who developed a “functional MRI” to translate test subjects thoughts into moving a cursor through a maze. It has been months since Cyberkinetics began their pilot study of the “BrainGate Neural Interface System”. Which uses an implanted electrode grid to issue computer commands. Results of their study are expected to be published later this year. But the most promising experiment looks like it’s happening at Washington University in St. Louis. Betterhumans featured a story on these scientists who utilized epilepsy monitoring electrodes already implanted in patients to get computer input directly from the brain."To put this in perspective," says researcher Eric Leuthardt, " the previous EEG-based systems are equivalent to a 1908 Wright brothers airplane in regards to speed of learning to achieve control. Right now with our results we're flying around in an F-16 jet."
Since Case and Bobby Quine first donned their electrode rigs, and delved into cyberspace, speculative fiction has been rife with various computer-brain interfaces. But we are now starting to see some real world development of this technology. The applications for quadriplegics and amputees alone make this research worth the price of admission. Thought controlled prosthetics and computers could give them a quality of life not imagined possible as little as ten years ago.
But the if something like this were to ever become commonplace, it would have far reaching implications for society as a whole. No more keyboards or mice or remote controls. We would no longer need steering wheels or numeric keypads. By using some wireless Brain-Computer Interface, every electronic device we encounter would only be a thought away. And by doing away with other input sources, you could make everything from your home stereo to your office PC an unobtrusive and almost invisible part of life.
I addition to removing the dials, buttons, switches and keys from our lives, it would have more of an effect than simply making this more of a “Nice Place to Live”. Eliminating clunky hardware interfaces would increase creativity, and allow people of all conditions the same power of input into our communications and productivity. And eventually, breakthroughs like this could lead to humans interacting in a much more direct way, without the middle man of verbalizing.
Although I may never end up with a “datajack” or a “trode-rig”, it looks like for the generation that follows, it’s not science fiction anymore.
More to come...