Thought-controlled computers on the way: Intel

Aug 25, 2010 by Lin Edwards report
Thought-controlled computers on the way: Intel
An fMRI scan example. Image: Wikipedia.

(PhysOrg.com) -- Computers controlled by the mind are going a step further with Intel's development of mind-controlled computers. Existing computers operated by brain power require the user to mentally move a cursor on the screen, but the new computers will be designed to directly read the words thought by the user.

Intel scientists are currently mapping out produced when people think of particular words, by measuring activity at about 20,000 locations in the brain. The devices being used to do the mapping at the moment are expensive and bulky MRI scanners, similar to those used in hospitals, but senior researcher at Intel, Dean Pomerlau, said smaller gadgets that could be worn on the head are being developed. Once the brain activity is mapped out the computer will be able to determine what words are being thought by identifying similar brain patterns and differences between them.

Pomerlau said words produce activity in parts of the brain associated with what the word represents. So thinking of a word for a type of food, such as apple, results in activity in the parts of the brain associated with hunger, while a word with a physical association such as spade produces activity in the areas of the related to making the physical movements of digging. In this way the computer can infer attributes of a word to narrow it down and identify it quickly.

A working prototype can already detect words like house, screwdriver and barn, but as brain scanning becomes more advanced the computer's ability to understand thoughts will improve.

If the plans are successful users will be able to surf the Internet, write emails and carry out a host of other activities on the computer simply by thinking about them. Director of Intel Laboratories, Justin Ratner, said it is clear humans are no longer restricted to using a keyboard and mouse, and is the "ultimate user interface." He said he is confident any concerns about privacy will be overcome.

While many able-bodied computer users may hesitate to adopt a technology that operates a by reading their minds, people who are unable to use a keyboard or a mouse through disability should find the new technology gives them much more freedom and opportunities for communicating.

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More information: Via Telegraph

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User comments : 37

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DamienS
2 / 5 (3) Aug 25, 2010
Hmmm, I'm skeptical, to say the least. Non-invasive brainwave scanning via scalp electrodes (I'm assuming that's what they're trying to develop - a far cry from fMRI mapping) simply won't have the precision to decode arbitrary words. I doubt that that's even possible in principle, as the waves are composites of broad brain activity. Not to mention doing it at conversational speeds and filtering out involuntary thoughts.

What is likely to be achievable is a very limited vocabulary of some 'key' words (or rather 'concepts' conveyed by the words), which will likely require a fair amount of concentration by the user. I'm also guessing the system will also need lengthy training, as everyone's brain will be different.
mrcircumspect
4.8 / 5 (5) Aug 25, 2010
Damien -- what is your point of doubting this? Not many companies are in the habit of promoting something hat they don't have at least a chance of fulfilling. Bad P.R. The article says they have done some of it already. So how can you state "I doubt it's possible even in principle". Skeptics and negative thought hold back our world from it's fullest potential.
DamienS
4 / 5 (4) Aug 25, 2010
The article says they have done some of it already. So how can you state "I doubt it's possible even in principle". Skeptics and negative thought hold back our world from it's fullest potential.

I thought I explained why I am skeptical. But you did give me a chuckle with this comment:
Not many companies are in the habit of promoting something hat they don't have at least a chance of fulfilling.
axemaster
Aug 25, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Bob_Kob
Aug 25, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
TabulaMentis
not rated yet Aug 25, 2010
WikiLeaks is going to have a fun time with this one exploiting everybody who does something against their belief!
seb
5 / 5 (1) Aug 25, 2010
I for one would welcome new technology that would allow a direct brain to computer interfacing.

Imagine if you will if this was a 2 way communication (or if we had some trendy eyewear with mini displays), where all knowledge would simply be a thought away. Imagine what that would do to ignorance and stupidity in one instant coup, once the things became affordable and common use.

Lots of fear mongling around the idea though. Then again there has always been people who were deathly afraid of new technologies, and had they had their way, we'd still be living in caves, no doubt.

muggins
not rated yet Aug 25, 2010
Intel Ceo "I can access your thoughts through your mind. Its called inception!"
Auxon
not rated yet Aug 25, 2010
Damien -- what is your point of doubting this? Not many companies are in the habit of promoting something hat they don't have at least a chance of fulfilling. Bad P.R. The article says they have done some of it already. So how can you state "I doubt it's possible even in principle". Skeptics and negative thought hold back our world from it's fullest potential.


Although I believe it's possible in principle, it surely won't work nearly as well as speech recognition which at it's best, still sucks pretty badly.
Auxon
4.9 / 5 (7) Aug 25, 2010
"A working prototype can already detect words like house, screwdriver and barn"

Unfortunetely, the subject was actually thinking, "whores", "screwing", and "porn".
Parsec
not rated yet Aug 25, 2010
I don't agree with the skeptics. Given that scientists can now use various carriers to cause a brain cell to glow visually when activated, at some point it will be trivial to design very precise non-invasive light sensors that will detect them.

Its also unfortunately true, that this and other techniques could be used to force people under duress to disclose information, or to reveal the most private details of their thoughts.

Add to that the equally scary capability to use the same technology to cause neurons to activate under the influence of light, and we have 2 way communications using light alone.

The potential for very positive uses, and also very negative ones causes me to be a bit uneasy.
ArcainOne
not rated yet Aug 25, 2010
The fundamentals of this technology already exists and is being used from a cute board game "Mindflex", and one for video gamers, "Emotiv EPOC". I am sure it will only become more common, afordable and more sensitive as such things usually do with technology.
bg1
not rated yet Aug 25, 2010
Great! Now I can have people eavesdropping on my thoughts? Nope. No way. Won't do it.
Parsec
not rated yet Aug 25, 2010
Great! Now I can have people eavesdropping on my thoughts? Nope. No way. Won't do it.

The carriers to infect your brain cells are highly modified virus's. You might be slipped a 'brain mickey' (I am coining this a 'bickey' --> remember you heard it here first!) and you would unknowing be susceptible to a scanner anywhere.

There won't be anything for you to 'do', except perhaps to wear a tinfoil hat to block the sensors. Oh won't that be fun!
TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (2) Aug 25, 2010
I for one would welcome new technology that would allow a direct brain to computer interfacing.

Imagine if you will if this was a 2 way communication (or if we had some trendy eyewear with mini displays), where all knowledge would simply be a thought away. Imagine what that would do to ignorance and stupidity in one instant coup, once the things became affordable and common use.

Lots of fear mongling around the idea though. Then again there has always been people who were deathly afraid of new technologies, and had they had their way, we'd still be living in caves, no doubt.


I was thinking more of a World War Three. I guess you have not thought about the subject extensively.
Maybe then everybody will go back to living in caves again, most likely to hide from Julian Assange.
TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (2) Aug 25, 2010
Great! Now I can have people eavesdropping on my thoughts? Nope. No way. Won't do it.

The carriers to infect your brain cells are highly modified virus's. You might be slipped a 'brain mickey' (I am coining this a 'bickey' --> remember you heard it here first!) and you would unknowing be susceptible to a scanner anywhere.

There won't be anything for you to 'do', except perhaps to wear a tinfoil hat to block the sensors. Oh won't that be fun!

People will need to wear full body suits 24/7 or live in fully protected homes if they are very rich and can afford it. But I am sure Julian Assange will find a way to get around that so he can screw things up. Oh, my hero!!!
TabulaMentis
not rated yet Aug 25, 2010
@Parsec

You might want to call that a "Brickey" instead of a "Bickey."
You get first dibs on either word!
Parsec
not rated yet Aug 25, 2010
I like Brickey better actually. Someday my spell checker won't even flag it with a red underline, assuming we even have spell checkers by then.
TabulaMentis
not rated yet Aug 25, 2010
I like Brickey better actually. Someday my spell checker won't even flag it with a red underline, assuming we even have spell checkers by then.

Julian Assange will be watching you to make sure you do not do anything wrong, including incorrect spelling. Then he will tell your mother if you do!
boldone894
not rated yet Aug 26, 2010
First thought: "WOW, it's amazing!" Second thought: "Here come the thought police!" then: "Wow, I might, someday be able to record my goofy-ass dreams!"
kz1300club
not rated yet Aug 26, 2010
Reading your thoughts is old news. Search Ophtameter in google and it returns only one working site, mine at - zn1300.com

This was Tesla technology from the 30's, and it's not even all that difficult. You can compare it to Lasik or other laser eye treatment being used these days. It's just slightly different and uses very high speed cameras like those used for extremely slow motion photography.
NickFun
not rated yet Aug 26, 2010
It will come to the point where the government will read our thoughts in the name of "security" unless we do something to change it now!
TabulaMentis
not rated yet Aug 27, 2010
@NickFun
It will come to the point where the government will read our thoughts in the name of "security" unless we do something to change it now!

Which government are you taking about that will be reading us:
Various Local Governments;
ET Governments; and/or
Deity Governments?
TabulaMentis
not rated yet Aug 27, 2010
@NickFun

"It will come to the point where the government will read our thoughts in the name of "security" unless we do something to change it now!"

Lets change that to:

Reporters;
Paparazzi;
Sir Julian Assange of WikiLeaks;
Various Local Governments;
ET Governments; and/or
Deity Governments?
zardoz520
not rated yet Aug 28, 2010
I'm a bit surprised I haven't seen the words "Borg Collective" here yet, as that seems to be the logical (if extreme) end result of this.
TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (1) Aug 28, 2010
@zardoz520

Borg Collective may be based on a passage found in the Bible. Please see the following link:

http://bible.cc/r...1-16.htm

The Bible passage deals with the New Jerusalem, which is a UFO in the shape of a cube that comes down from outer space and hovers over Jerusalem for 1,000 years. The cube is 1,500 miles long, wide and tall.
The New Jerusalem UFO is, I believe, a satellite of a Mother ship which is many times larger in magnitude than its satellite, the New Jerusalem.

That is extreme if you were to ask me!

Au-Pu
not rated yet Aug 30, 2010
Seb I like your enthusiasm but knowledge without training as to how to use it becomes more dangerous than beneficial.
To identify that you want food is one thing but how do you differentiate between food types?
Also all people will not store information the same way. How will these brain scanners cope with that?
At this stage it is interesting but that is all.
It is not time to get excited yet.
rkolter
not rated yet Aug 30, 2010
My concern would be three-fold:

1) Wild thoughts. I'm thinking an email or surfing the web with my mind and my wife walks by and I remember the sex we had last night and suddenly I'm surfing porn sites or writing a softcore novel instead of an email.

2)Impulsive thoughts - I'm thinking an email to my boss and it's frustrating and I think "Dammit my life would be so much easier if my boss was run over by a bus." And suddenly that's in the email. And, I impulsively THINK ABOUT hitting the enter key... and it's gone.

3) Dual Word/Action thoughts - The enter key above. Will it easily differentiate between "and then I entered the hallway" and "And then I [ENTER]ed the hallway"
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Aug 30, 2010
I can't wait to be able to read stupid at the speed of thought in my email each day....
TabulaMentis
not rated yet Aug 30, 2010
I can't wait to be able to read stupid at the speed of thought in my email each day....

I wonder who you are talking about?
kz1300club
not rated yet Aug 30, 2010
@TabulaMentis
Your cube is not a cube. It's a different shape. Think about it. How many cube monuments do you see dedicated to anything in bible scripture? However, you do see structures in this other geometric shape. If you enlarged them to your 1500 x 1500 x 1500 dimension, they'd still be the same shape only larger. You've been lied to by the pastors again. It's an epidemic these days.
TabulaMentis
1 / 5 (1) Aug 31, 2010
@TabulaMentis
Your cube is not a cube. It's a different shape. Think about it. How many cube monuments do you see dedicated to anything in bible scripture? However, you do see structures in this other geometric shape. If you enlarged them to your 1500 x 1500 x 1500 dimension, they'd still be the same shape only larger. You've been lied to by the pastors again. It's an epidemic these days.


And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.

http://bible.cc/r...1-16.htm
Skeptic_Heretic
not rated yet Aug 31, 2010
And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.
Are you seriously trying to tell us that there are Borg in the Bible? What the hell is wrong with you?
TabulaMentis
not rated yet Aug 31, 2010
@Skeptic Heretic

No, I am not saying there are Borg in the Bible!
I mentioned earlier that the idea of Borgs' may have come from the Bible, but I am sure the person who created the idea of Borgs' knows the origin.
kz1300club
not rated yet Aug 31, 2010
@TabulaMentis
Those dimensions describe a cubic shape, and one other geometric shape as well. One you know well. If everyone knew geometry a little better we wouldn't of been lied to so easily by church leadership.
TabulaMentis
not rated yet Aug 31, 2010
@kz1300club

I am talking about cubics. I am not talking about hypercubes, etc.
kz1300club
not rated yet Aug 31, 2010
@TabulaMentis
Sorry, not a cube or hypercube. There another geometric shape everyone is very familiar with that is also 10" x 10" x 10", or 1500 miles x 1500 miles x 1500 miles. Apparently no one ever looked in their kids 8th grade geometry book and noticed that there's one other shape that fits those type of dimensions. I didn't notice it either until someone told me it wasn't what a cube (or hypercube) like the preachers claim.
Javinator
not rated yet Aug 31, 2010
Sounds like you're referring to a square based pyramid?
kz1300club
not rated yet Aug 31, 2010
There's some very good books on Pyramidology available. But yes, I suppose most people haven't looked into pyramids much and pondered what they're all about. The Great Pyramid is unique and bears investigation by Christians. As I understand, it was built by Jobs brother.