Intel wants a chip implant in your brain

Nov 23, 2009 by Lin Edwards weblog
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( -- Computer chip maker Intel wants to implant a brain-sensing chip directly into the brains of its customers to allow them to operate computers and other devices without moving a muscle.

Intel believes its customers would be willing to have a implanted in their brains so they could operate computers without the need for a keyboard or mouse using thoughts alone. The could also be used to operate devices such as cell phones, TVs and DVDs.

The chip is being developed at Intel's laboratory in Pittsburgh, USA. It would sense using technology based on FMRI (). The brain sensing chips are not yet available, but research scientist Dean Pomerleau thinks they are close.

Theoretically, different people thinking of the same word or image would have the same activity in their brains, but since no one really knows exactly how the brain works, this is not certain. Pomerleau and his team have used FMRI to scan the brains of volunteers to see if brain patterns match when they are thinking of similar things, and so far the results look promising.

Pomerleau said that with human beings and machines converging in many ways, people will want to give up the need for an interface such as a keyboard, mouse or remote control and operate the devices using their brain waves. Pomerleau believes that some time within the next decade or so people will be "more committed" to the idea of the brain implants.

Pomerleau said a headset incorporating brain sensing technology to operate a computer is close, and the next step is to develop the tiny , which would be much less cumbersome for the user.

Associate Professor Charles Higgins of the University of Arizona predicts people will be using hybrid computers using a combination of living tissue and technology within 10 to 15 years. Researchers at his University have successfully built a robot guided by the eyes and brain of a moth. Researchers with Toyota are also working in the area, have developed a wheelchair controlled by waves.

While it seems unlikely many people would volunteer for the Intel chip implant at present, it could have applications for people who are unable to move, such as quadriplegics.

© 2009

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User comments : 49

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5 / 5 (6) Nov 23, 2009
as long as the software isn't based on BSOD in my brain.
2.4 / 5 (7) Nov 23, 2009
And Bob Dylan wrote: "and if my thought-dreams could be seen they'd probably put my head in a guillotine."

The following line is "But it's all right Ma; it's life and life only."
2.1 / 5 (7) Nov 23, 2009
mvq...It seems the bad idea inside your head is only persuasion enough to write half a sentence on the subject. If you truly believed in something, it may be a good idea to explain your reasoning or give some evidence or maybe something more than slapping your hands against a keyboard with a hint of caps lock. Otherwise, you're the worst idea human-kind has allowed exist in this era. Grow some lobes sir and fire a neuron, it only costs a few millivolts you frugal blow hard. If you notice, my last sentence had more science than anything you can bring to the table. So bring it.
4 / 5 (1) Nov 23, 2009
Mr. Frontier are you pro brain chip implants then I take it?
2.6 / 5 (5) Nov 23, 2009
Okay, I'll throw in and help mvg out. With reservations.

First, to be clear, I don't think it's a bad idea. It has many positve applications from the therapuetic, to exploring the intellect of other species, to finally making torture obsolete.

But, it takes very little imagination to see the vast potential for abuse. And as mvg said "on so many levels."

I for one intend to preserve my full freedom of thought. In fact, it seems time that we initiate a Constitutional amendment that preserves it for all of us. It is worth bearing in mind as we face this new technological frontier that this freedom is not currently gauanteed.

And Intel, please be careful. If you have it, others will definitely want it. And judging from what I read in the news, they may not play nice.

Take care.
3.4 / 5 (5) Nov 23, 2009
Damn, just when I was getting used to my AMD implant!

Seriously, do they really think that you get the implant once, and you're good? Shouldn't it be obvious that (especially this being a new area) implants will improve every year, and you need the last version to get the most functionality?

Their mistake is to think of the implant as a keyboard or a mouse, which have been essentially the same since their inception. Rather, the implant is like the mobile phone, or a game console. New models coming out every year with new functionality, and applications popping up demanding even more functionality.

A dead-end, if I ever saw one. In the meantime, I'd expect Apple or Creative to develop that functionality into mp3 earphones. Then you could upgrade every year, try out your friend's newer earphones -- all without the risk of MRSA infection at installation.

With this, Intel looks like a Dinosaur facing extinction.
3 / 5 (3) Nov 23, 2009
No surgery required. You swallow the nano-implants in pill form and they navigate to your juiciest nuerons. After their expiration date or upgrade notification, they disintegrate. Then you swallow a new one. It's a subscription plan.

And if you fall behind on your payments, they have ways of making you pay.
4.3 / 5 (6) Nov 23, 2009
In 10 - 15 years time anyone who hasn't taken their "pill" won't be able to purchase anything or operate any electronic equipment. But they will be able to drive faster than the speed limit. And get drunk.

The choice will be yours.
4 / 5 (4) Nov 23, 2009
But the fun begins about 20 years out. With an extremely robust cloud operating and the whole thing tying in seamlessly to our visual cortex, the physical computer and screen becomes quite obsolete.

Then we will all be on Facebook ALL THE TIME! Even in our dreams. :-)
5 / 5 (1) Nov 23, 2009
FMRI by a chip?!? how? for FMRI a sensing surface (or at least a ring) around the brain is needed. a chip is punctual.
not rated yet Nov 23, 2009
I know its easy to talk about the doom and gloom of these future technologies (i.e. iRobot & Ad-Driven lives), but we only to use a small amount of imagination to understand these type of implants will not only become commonplace, they will be adopted so quickly, that they will easily become an afterthought; like the existence of cars, planes, and consumer search engines (which, remember, didn't exist 10 years ago). I say it is up to us, the Tech Community, to encourage the adoption of these and other similar technologies.
5 / 5 (1) Nov 23, 2009
We do need to encourage adoption of such user-as-the-interface devices, and I predict only a ten year mark after initial production that we reach a "golden standard". What we need to discourage, and indeed prevent from inception is the ability for marketing firms (and hackers!) to hijack your interface. I am all for getting an implant that lets me bypass "speed of muscle" and go straight to "speed of thought" computing; as a speedy and accurate typist, I lament that I have basically hit the upper limit for technology at this time. While I am very much for these devices, I will never get one until the technology is perfected to the point of guaranteeing safety from external infiltration, whether by malware or adware.

Just think what it could do for FPS games, though! Virtual reality, even. =)
1 / 5 (1) Nov 23, 2009
I'm not sure why they think it would be hard to find volunteers for an implant. I would love to participate.
5 / 5 (2) Nov 23, 2009
Re: Negative...

They are likely talking about the premises that fMRI is based on, i.e. the BOLD effect. The BOLD effect is an increase in blood flow in response to an area of your brain having more neural activations. This would be difficult, but not impossible to detect with a chip or chips implanted close to the region(s) of interest.

What they don't mention is the big time-delay problem: the BOLD effect only occurs ~6 seconds after your neurons fire! This means that EVERY action would be so slow, no one would want it. So, the technology would have to be based on EEG technology, not fMRI. This is not only faster (almost instantaneous), but more easily done because EEG relies on electricity. Then the only problem would be getting the signal to the computer...

Still not sold on putting one in *my* brain, but it's totally doable.
5 / 5 (2) Nov 23, 2009
wade419: yup. thanks for the info.

getting electric signals directly from neurons seems much more realistic to me. till now most experiments (monkey / moth controlling a robot) work on this base. on eeg relies that charming orange mind-set, doesn't it?

in all cases, the devices measure impulses emitted by the brain. for fmri, the device itself emits some strong magnetic field (or pulses) and measures echoes. basically.

besides, scanning is done slice-wise (though I know that fMRI collect in fact volume data; slicing is done in a post-processing phase, because doctors can read only 2D sections of the brain).

i see collecting such data from a single point as quite challenging. instead of a many parallel "sightings" of the brain, there will be a sheaf of "line-views", pointing to the chip.

anyway, what they propose is a one-way communication. looking forward for ideas on two-way comm. :D
not rated yet Nov 23, 2009
Dear Intel, you will never get the permission to implant anything in my brain!
Implanting something inside brain can lead to cancer, madness and eventually to death!
4 / 5 (4) Nov 23, 2009
mondoblu, you're absolutely right!

but, you know, there's another phenomenon that can lead to cancer, madness and eventually to death: life.
5 / 5 (1) Nov 23, 2009
While i feel enticed to let them insert that jewel in my brain , the potential for disaster is so great...just one word.


Anyone heard about the zombie legions of computers in the internet , awaiting a remote signal to perform DOS attacks on websites and such? Well , that put the fear of god in any soul.

5 / 5 (1) Nov 23, 2009
While i feel enticed to let them insert that jewel in my brain , the potential for disaster is so great...just one word.


Anyone heard about the zombie legions of computers in the internet , awaiting a remote signal to perform DOS attacks on websites and such? Well , that put the fear of god in any soul.

I didn't realize God was doing all that. What a jerk.

These chips won't be directly altering thoughts anytime soon. All they can do for now is basically make crude judgments of what the user wants to do based on patterns of electrical activity. It's more a sensor that the *user* learns to talk to.
not rated yet Nov 23, 2009
I'm dissappointed that the writers of the article only considered quadriplegics as an afterthought. Unless they purposefully did that to stir controversy, it seems like a chip implant would be the most viable (if not the only) option for them to regain use of their limbs.

So for those people who are always looking for an argument: is this MORE or LESS ethical than using stem cells to repair the spinal cord?
not rated yet Nov 23, 2009
Its inevitable.
I for one intend to preserve my full freedom of thought.
I guess im the one to point out that we only have the freedom to think about that we are offered, from news and the media to what our self-perceptions lead us to on the internet. There is already very little on our minds that hasnt been put there by intent. What difference does the interface make? I'm tired of earbuds- I want cochlear implants along with visual input via contacts or direct visual cortex stimulation. AND I want a pleasure center feed because im, you know, a little depressed. I think the healthcare bill should include provisions for these things. They should be available to everybody.
not rated yet Nov 23, 2009

I didn't realize God was doing all that. What a jerk.

It was a form of speech , not intended to imply that any supposed divinity could take over.

5 / 5 (5) Nov 23, 2009
Brings new meaning to intel inside tm.
1 / 5 (1) Nov 23, 2009
Upgradeability is the main problem I see with any type of electronic implants. I don't want my skull cracked open every time Intel ticks or tocks. Standardization and compatability concerns me too. This is ultimately a commercial invention, so who says Samsung or Dell or anyone else won't realease an incompatible format requiring their chip? Guess what you'll be using to change channels on your Samsung then... yep, you'll be looking like a caveman with your hand-held remote.
not rated yet Nov 23, 2009
The problem is controlling your brain, everyone sleeps and dreams, and some people dream during the day.
Nothing like broadcasting your thoughts when that sexy blond walks past your station and glances at the screen.
Once implanted you can't turn it off.
not rated yet Nov 23, 2009
There are commercially available video game controllers on the market today you wear on your head like a hat able to read enough into your thinking to control computer games.

If the only goal is remote control of devices are medical implants even necessary? If a toy can do it using passively snooped EM (Tempest for the mind?) why can't the same method be improved and perfected by a serious organization with a lot of R&D to throw at the problem?

The number of people willing to use such an interface would obviously be quite a bit higher than if surgical procedures are required.

Now in the distant future having data INPUT into the brain from a remote source in a more effective manner than a TV screen may require such interface technologies. Needless to say noone is anywhere near the capability where they could even approach such feats.
3 / 5 (2) Nov 23, 2009
And what about the range of the chip, would you have to log in to your own pc or do you broadcast to everyone in range?
A thought, does the chip work both ways? if so then close range telepathy is possible.
Also, what happens when a nearby lightning strike or a voltage spike trashes your comp, does it trash you too?
not rated yet Nov 24, 2009
Probable first adopters would seek first use as medical device to monitor for epilepsy or control and detect other brain malfunctions.
not rated yet Nov 24, 2009
Re: having to upgrade a brain implant

One concern I see repeated here in the comments is that of exposure to disease from replacement implants, and this is a valid concern. However, I feel the readers are thinking inside the box. =)

Consider an implant the user can "feel" in order to be able to "talk" to it. The researchers at Intel theorize that everyone should have mostly the same electro-chemical experience from which the device could glean the user's intent. What if, instead, the device is programmable by the user? For example, I want my implant to be able to turn on/off the lights in my house (which have been wired to a signal receiver for thsi device). First, I prime the device to "Lights on/off", then I calibrate the signal to, for example, the electro-chemical impulse associated with me jumping straight up from a standing position. Now, I can turn the lights on by concentrating on a "jump" or whatever action I have set the device to recognize for that action.
5 / 5 (1) Nov 24, 2009
Now, you no longer need upgrades to your chip so that it can do more - you simply need to train yourself to focus and visualize, or think of certain "power words" to do certain things. Additionally, it would require a bit of infrastructure in your home and any public place where these implants are to be useful. Like with any new technology, for it to be used widespread the infrastructure needs to be there.

Just imagine a world where people have mind-over-matter ability; walk into your home, the lights come on, the air conditioning is set to a comfortable level, you turn on the television and flip through the channels, place an order with your local pizza delivery and send a telepathic message to your friend asking if he's watching the game... all just by using your mind. It will be so ubiquitous that a hypothetical alien visitor would think you command some kind of "magic".

If any replacement of chips is required, it would be to extend the signal range.
not rated yet Nov 24, 2009
I think this isn't a good idea or a cause because Human has been losing his strengths since centuries compared if this insane idea is successful then the future generations might not even able to move his muscle which could lead to weaker limbs as the Evolution theory states , so I better think that this invention has more Negative aspects than a positive one.Hope these inventions don't push Human to a darker future
not rated yet Nov 24, 2009
Probably best to trial this on people who have a high desire for it. Perhaps people with robotic artificial limbs could be a great first trial group.
not rated yet Nov 24, 2009
Perhaps it can focus a display onto your retinas so you can control what you need, like a HUD.
But if you can do that then you could image the PC screen too!
Loss of profits there, can't see that happening in a hurry.
not rated yet Nov 26, 2009
Keep in mind, all that is needed in the brain is infrastructure to get the needed data out, i.e., into the outside world. Many types of skull caps can be worn to interpret the data (as easily dawned and doffed as any other atricle of clothing). Quantum computers can be used to encrypt the data before it exits the skull, thereby eliminating any danger that it could be read by unauthorized agencies.

This kind of procedure places most of the danger in the skull cap IT. Eventually, no invasive techniques would be needed to lay the infrastructure. Swallowing the appropriate nanobot pill would suffice.
not rated yet Nov 26, 2009
Asimov fans will recognise this, of course.
Skullcaps and shaved heads.
I have never met anyone who owns a quantum computer, Doh, I am not sure if one will fit inside my head as I usually keep my brain there.
not rated yet Nov 26, 2009
I think I would get a fever after a few hours of use! :P
not rated yet Nov 26, 2009
this is only a matter of time. and there is absolutely no news story here, so leave this speculative no-news nonsense off physorg. there are people working on this, and they are no where near anything concrete. if you are going to report anything, report on the stuff they are working on.
not rated yet Nov 27, 2009
From the medical side: Once you have such a chip implanted you will never again be able to have an MRI scan taken (which might save your life) because the chip would melt and probably kill you in the process.

So I'll pass on this one and stick with the 'traditional' input/output features I'm born with.

I'm not sticking anything in my brain I don't have full control over. Seeing that I don't even fully understand how a chip in my computer works I can't see how I'll feel safe with one of those things sticking in my gray/white matter
not rated yet Nov 27, 2009
I'm not against helping out people with disabilities by means of chip implants and such. Although I think we indeed need some new form of protection of the I. If I do not want that chip (do not want that flu shot) then I'm free to choice not to have it and it may not impact my life such as my employer firing me... The next step in the life of us, (yeah 99% of the population) poor slaves/ants is to provide our brain at full power for the purpose of the rich.
not rated yet Nov 27, 2009
does that mean I'll forget how to divide properly ?
not rated yet Nov 27, 2009
Chips implant!!...Controlling "the machine"by thoughts..Old dream that started during the Cold War(Fire Fox movie)...The "Psychotron" (stand for Psycho-electronic) was on a drawing board late on the 70's in the US...The major problem was indeed the singularity of each individual, thus the brain wave interpretation for a given function...Not to mention at that time the electronic noise surrounding the subject. Such a device today would be extremely performant as it will be double sworded: Civiliant use could effectively appear as a good gadget, encouraging lasyness to handle you computer or appliances or car..Now imagine if the manufacturer become greedy: you could receive a mandatory update to proceed -not complying may result then to a form of punishment (i let you use your imagination).Military use could be intersting:Emotion could be supressed with then permanent damages (endocrinien functions)...Is that our future society???
not rated yet Nov 27, 2009
Our future, hopefully in a free society, will be determined by us. We must think about the use/abuse of these technological wonders before they become real. Incidentally, one of the good aspects of science fiction.
1 / 5 (1) Nov 28, 2009
I'd like it if these nano-devices(or whatever they are) could target the dormant areas of the mind and memory and put them to work. I can imagine all sorts of parrallel processing possibilities. Right now, your subconscious mind is "incubating" on all sorts of mundane issues, ideas and worries. I'd like a dashboard where I could fully utilize all that computing and imagination power. I can see great good uses and greatly enhanced creativity.

As a writer, this would be an enormous boon to output. Even if in parrallel it did nothing more than proofread!!

And the increased calories usage would help with weight control. :-)
1 / 5 (1) Nov 28, 2009
Ooooh! I can imagine having a few Quad-Cores installed in my brain along with such a chip, right along with an ocular implant connected to those. Sign me up.

Resistance is futile! :-)
not rated yet Nov 29, 2009
I think the implant is cool, but it will lure a lot of people away because of it's "invasiveness". I'm sure they'll have something that you can just put behind your ear instead of in your head (does it go through the nose or surgery? Either way I'm sure there are more complications to that than there are to behind the ear.)

This is really neat stuff, I know soooooo many people who'd claim this to be the Mark of the Beast :P
1 / 5 (1) Nov 29, 2009
I would go for a subdermal implant most likely. That, of course, is assuming the product has real benefits which interest me.

not rated yet Nov 29, 2009
At the rate processors are getting better/faster any implant will be outdated within 5 years (at most). Will you want to have brain surgery (with all the attendant risks) every 5 years?

For standard applications this might be OK (e.g. helping a debilitated person regain an ability. The load of that ability will not increase over time and thus not necessitate an upgrade)...but for 'fun' applications? I doubt that anyone who thinks about this for a few seconds would go for it.
not rated yet Nov 30, 2009
You guys are so ignorant of what is happening. :-(
You don't even know what you are eating. Read one book "Brave New World".
not rated yet Dec 22, 2009
so that's what David Rockefeller and his cronies were discussing at the last bilderberg meeting!

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