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The Computer That Can Read Your Mind 145

Posted by timothy
from the what-am-I-thinking-and-where-does-she-live dept.
magacious writes "Gtec has showcased a computer that can read your mind over at the CeBIT trade show in Germany. Designed primarily to help those who can't write or speak, the system makes use of a skull cap and wireless technology to transform brain waves into letters. It's the first patient-ready computer-brain interface, according to its Austrian makers. It takes around 30 seconds per letter for the computer to recognise what you're saying the first time you use it, according to Gtec, but this improves vastly with practice. '"One second per letter is very tough," Gtec's Engelbert Grunbacher said, adding users can usually easily get to five or 10 letters per minute. "You learn to be relaxed, focused. You improve."' It might look quite wacky (pictures here) and at €9,000 the system is not cheap, but it could help enhance the lives of many people who have a great deal to say but no real way of saying it."
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The Computer That Can Read Your Mind

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  • by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @04:09PM (#31349650) Journal

    As I've understood, mind reading comes down to recognizing certain patterns in the brain. Given improvement in the processing speed and database of patterns, could it be possible to draw a complete picture of what you are thinking? And if yes, would sleeping interfere with such?

    It would be great if you could save your dreams and watch them later, especially as they're usually really great entertainment in sleep but you forget them really quick. There's basically three dreams I still remember. First one when I was on first or second grade about a girl I liked then. Second one about a girl in my high school - interestingly, I didn't have feelings for her before this dream where I slept next to her. And third dream about some brazilian I had sex with (a sex dream, and I accidentally cummed on side of my girlfriend back then). But saving all those dreams would be great. Wonder what RIAA would think if everyone started watching their own interesting dreams instead of movies though...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Superdarion (1286310)
      You wouldn't be able to share your dream-videos of you smashing the RIAA headquarters with your friends, as that'd be infringing on intellectual property.
      • by megamerican (1073936) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @04:16PM (#31349742)

        You wouldn't be able to share your dream-videos of you smashing the RIAA headquarters with your friends, as that'd be infringing on intellectual property.

        Nothing from Austria could possibly be evil!

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Wiarumas (919682)
        Or even better yet, if someone has the same dream as you, is that copyright infringement?
      • by Sulphur (1548251)

        You wouldn't be able to share your dream-videos of you smashing the RIAA headquarters with your friends, as that'd be infringing on intellectual property.

        That would be mind writing.

    • Ewww! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Locke2005 (849178) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @04:18PM (#31349788)
      TMI! Too Much Information!
      • Never mind the fact that after his device records his dream about the first grade girl, he's committed child pornography in his sleep and labeled as a sex offender when he wakes up.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Spare us the gritty details...

    • Re:Mind reading (Score:5, Interesting)

      by HungryHobo (1314109) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @04:22PM (#31349848)

      I'm more worried that once we get that kind of tech there will be no legal safeguards to protect people from being read against their will.

      "the defendant clearly dreamed about stabbing the victim while in police custody"

      Or even worse: you make a recording of your dreams and they break laws like possession of obscene material-
      I can imagine someone being prosecuted for possession obscene material in the form of recordings of thier own memories or dreams.

      Or to go even creepier:
      If the brain starts being considered just another data storage device might they start issuing warrants for information stored on it?
      Could your memories of your girlfriend when you were in highschool get you charged for possessing "child porn" on the storage medium that is your brain?

      There's a lot of horribly possibilities and I'd like to see legal safeguards being put in place long before we start to really really need them.

      Police won't be so bothered if we forbid them to read peoples minds against their will now than 50 years down the line when it's helping their conviction rate.

      • Re:Mind reading (Score:5, Interesting)

        by EndlessNameless (673105) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @04:43PM (#31350144)

        There's a lot of horribly possibilities and I'd like to see legal safeguards being put in place long before we start to really really need them.

        Police won't be so bothered if we forbid them to read peoples minds against their will now than 50 years down the line when it's helping their conviction rate.

        There is probably no law required for this. You have a constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination. Actually, it is quite likely a law which requires or permits such mind-reading would be deemed unconstitutional.

        • by sopssa (1498795) *

          Exactly. Laws state you don't need to say anything even if you're being questioned. Where I life it's also voluntary to go into lie detector test. Something like mind reading device would be completely out of question.

          • by tehcyder (746570)

            Laws state you don't need to say anything even if you're being questioned. Where I life it's also voluntary to go into lie detector test. Something like mind reading device would be completely out of question.

            Well, here in the UK, the police caution is now "you do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention, when questioned, something which you later rely on in court.

            Which is getting close to saying "you do not have to admit your guilt, but if you don't the court can as

        • Re:Mind reading (Score:5, Insightful)

          by HungryHobo (1314109) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @05:04PM (#31350374)

          I'm thinking of some cases where people have been required to provide data that's only in their heads like passwords.

          You have the right to avoid self-incrimination.
          You apparently do not have the right to not provide data stored on some media you own to the police when ordered to by a court.
          With a moderate amount of slippery slopiness and easy technology the brain could start to be considered just another data storage device.

        • by Shark (78448)

          Aaah, I love this ideal world of yours where the people keep the government bound to the constitution. I guess it's appropriate since we're on the topic of dreams. Nowadays this would fall in the category of pipe-dreams.

          • by epine (68316)

            Aaah, I love this ideal world of yours where the people keep the government bound to the constitution. I guess it's appropriate since we're on the topic of dreams. Nowadays this would fall in the category of pipe-dreams.

            The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who haven't got it.
            — George Bernard Shaw

            A cutting aphorism is commonly mistaken for insight by those who haven't got any.
            — Five Digit Monkey

            Interesting how quickly this discussion degenerated into women policing wayward intent. Western governments love to safe-guard passive and obedient citizenship, far more than most gun-toting individualists. Certain institutions of government get a little ca

        • by hansraj (458504)

          This technology will be available to the rest of the planet outside USA too. Not that I share the fear of OP but US laws do not apply to everyone.

        • by andydread (758754)
          If you record your dreams/memories to some external media then you are at risk of having all that information used against you in the court of law if they raid your premises for any reason an find it.
        • There is probably no law required for this. You have a constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination. Actually, it is quite likely a law which requires or permits such mind-reading would be deemed unconstitutional.

          Except, I'm sure, in airports.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Akido37 (1473009)
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ex_Post_Facto_(Star_Trek:_Voyager) [wikipedia.org]

        I can't believe I just referenced Star Trek: Voyager.
      • And just think. It'll only take one other advancement - a way to physically alter your brain - and then we'll be able to rewrite personalities and memories! Hurray! Millions of brainwashed people that genuinely believe what they believe.

    • by furby076 (1461805) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @04:25PM (#31349890) Homepage

      usually really great entertainment in sleep

      Yea that horror nightmare that I had was really great entertainment. Peeing my bed just made it all the more fun.

      Besides, i can see my fiancee sticking this on my head to see what I am dreaming about...and then getting yelled at because she's not the women in my dreams.

      • by tool462 (677306) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @04:49PM (#31350202)

        because she's not the women in my dreams.

        Even if she was one of them, she might still be upset with the plural...

        • by bhsurfer (539137) <bhsurferNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @05:47PM (#31350932)
          Ever have one of those mornings where your GF is pissed at you for something you did in HER dream? Man, I hate that...
          • Dude, you have no idea.

            Sincerely,

            Mr. Bobbit
          • That sucks. Also, girls being pissed at you when they misheard something and seeming to feel that their mishearing something is no excuse for saying something like that. It is like... anger inertia or something.
          • Well, if you’re the loser who lets her get trough with that behavior, it’s your own damn fault.
            Set rules of what you find acceptable, and what not. And stand by them!
            Ok, actually you should have started with that when you saw her the first time, as it’s a bit late now.

            It’s sad how many man think that a woman will like them more, if they say yes and amen to everything.
            When in fact it’s much more attractive if you know what you want and have your rules. It feels safe to enter suc

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by vxice (1690200)
        well all she needs now is to read over your shoulder, or know your slashdot nick. Probably not too much to worry about but I would have posted anonymous.
        • by sopssa (1498795) *

          well all she needs now is to read over your shoulder, or know your slashdot nick. Probably not too much to worry about but I would have posted anonymous.

          Remember, we are on slashdot - we know computers.

          Personally I use Opera for my browsing habits. But Firefox is set as default browser so girlfriend always just opens it, or if she clicks on a link Firefox opens. It's a good setup for both to not let her mess your browser session and so she doesn't see your witty slashdot comments about ex-girlfriends.

        • by Rigrig (922033)

          This is /., he was obviously speaking about a hypothetical fiancée.

      • That's what Lori said (Total Recall)
    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @04:37PM (#31350042) Journal

      And third dream about some brazilian I had sex with (a sex dream ...

      A sex dream about sex?! Now I've heard everything!

      and I accidentally cummed on side of my girlfriend back then).

      !? Did you mean to say, "it's personal"? Don't worry, if you're still have those problems, I know a great movie [imdb.com] that will help you with those wet dreams.

      The video shows letters on a computer screen. That's it! They have to think hard about each letter for a lengthy amount of time. Young Pamela Anderson didn't pop up stripping on the computer monitor when they did the demo! For the love of all things spaghetti, read the fucking article next time!!!

    • Belanger shrugged. "If what you say is right, I'm kind of sorry for the guy."

      Weill nodded sadly. "I'm sorry for all of them. Through the years, I've found out one thing. It's their business; making people happy. Other people".

      Dreaming is a private thing [wikipedia.org]

    • by grumbel (592662)

      As I've understood, mind reading comes down to recognizing certain patterns in the brain.

      The hard part isn't so much recognizing the patterns, but getting a good picture of the brain in the first place. Even with the most advanced scanning technologies you don't go much beyond "this region of the brain is active", which isn't anywhere near enough to figure out what exactly is happening in your brain. Its kind of like trying to figure out what you computer is doing by looking at its heat signature with an IR camera, sure you can figure out if somebody is playing a game or not as the GPU is heati

    • What if I’m not thinking of a picture at all?

      What if I’m not even thinking of something that can be sensed by any human sense, as it is an abstract/fantasy concept/thing/feeling?

  • by Superdarion (1286310) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @04:12PM (#31349688)
    I wonder if it'll work as a TV remote.
  • by r0k3t (1142151) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @04:14PM (#31349712)
    I am sure he will be one of the first to use it.
  • by parallel_prankster (1455313) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @04:14PM (#31349718)
    So now if people are thinking about their passwords while typing it in, it could be picked up by this ?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by T Murphy (1054674)
      Given how slowly it works, this would only be a risk for the slowest hunt-and-peck typists, who are more vulnerable to an over-the-shoulder attack. Of course with improvement this could become a real issue.
    • by swanzilla (1458281) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @04:33PM (#31350000) Homepage

      So now if people are thinking about their passwords while typing it in, it could be picked up by this ?

      I'm fairly positive the target would notice you placing an electrode-laden skull cap on their head.

      • Tell them it’s the latest fashion craze, and let them do it themselves!

        Worked for rubber boots in the summer for girls, so it will work for rubber caps too.

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @04:14PM (#31349720) Journal
    No, no, no, you're doing it wrong, you fools! Petite Japanese girls in school uniforms demo futuristic tech products not large bearded Austrians (with three layers of clothing on, no less). And the demo messages shouldn't be "HELLO IT PRO" but instead something like "OH HAI, SUPER FANTASTIC HAPPY FRIENDS!" Jesus, haven't you ever been to E3?
  • What we really need is a computer for people that can't think!

  • by Locke2005 (849178) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @04:16PM (#31349758)
    If they think it can read minds, they've obviously never tested it on a woman!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by furby076 (1461805)
      The problem is that men won't be able to use falling asleep after sex as an excuse for not talking to their girlfriends.
      • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

        by Locke2005 (849178)
        In my experience, it has generally been my wife (or girlfriends before her) that fall asleep after sex. In fact, I believe that if the woman doesn't fall asleep after, you're not doing it right. However, I have been known to threaten to stuff something into her mouth to shut her up _before_ sex. Talking about bills, chores, neighbors, etc. does not effect foreplay make!
  • by Chapter80 (926879) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @04:17PM (#31349774)

    it worrk pretty good
    at cebut show rite now

    babe at booth acros th isle
    gawd shes hot

    2 bad im wearin ths goofy hat

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      seems to work about as well as an iPhone keypad.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    But can it run Linux?

  • And my friends called me an idealist.

  • by Itninja (937614) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @04:25PM (#31349896) Homepage
    It's called 20q and I bought it at in the Seattle Science Center gift ship for $15. the box in came in clearly says it can 'read your mind'. One time I thought of 'playstation' and it got the answer after 9 questions. Then I thought 'this thing is pretty dumb' and it got the answer after 3 questions!
    • When I first read the title , I thought, well Windows and various other programs have *thought* they could read my mind since the 90s. Only problem is that they don't read my mind very well... In fact, if you were to bet against its guesses about what I want to do, you'd make more money that if you did. (Are you sure you want to quit? It looks like you're writing a letter... There are unused icons on your desktop! Dear Aunt, let's set so double the killer delete select all. [google.com] )

      ...Then I read the summary
  • Hot cylon chicks can't be far behind!

  • by OglinTatas (710589) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @04:26PM (#31349922)

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0401383/ [imdb.com]

    But probably more useful for locked in syndrome
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locked_in_syndrome [wikipedia.org]

  • Wouldn't something like this be an amazing tool for dislexic people?

    Perhaps they can figure out exactly what's going wrong with their brain wiring if a computer can have direct access to the signals it's giving out and actually understand them.
  • I have a friend who has ALS (same disease as Hawking) and we haven't gotten a proper message from him in more than 2 years. I can't imagine how lonely that is. These types of systems really pay off in the quality of life they can create for disabled patients and such. Color me excited.

    I do, however, hope the price drops significantly.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    to think in Russian.

  • Wouldn't it be a lot faster and cheaper to integrate eye-tracking technology into Dasher?

    http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/dasher/ [cam.ac.uk]

  • G - e - t - - - m - e - - - a - - - b - e - e - r - - - P - L - Z
  • Certainly would have made writing his memoirs much faster. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Diving_Bell_and_the_Butterfly [wikipedia.org] This was a very interesting movie, I would definitely recommend it!
  • by NoSleepDemon (1521253) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @04:44PM (#31350162)
    The kind of mind reading that this article implies, and what some posters are worried about (is it 1984 again?) is a long, long way off, about "50 years" in scientific terms.

    I worked with a student on a similar Brain-Computer-Interface to what appears to be shown here. In actuality, the interface barely reads your mind at all, the grid of letters you see flashes while you focus on the letter you want to type. When that letter flashes, your brain registers this, and your 'surprise' at seeing the flash is what's measured. Knowing the time that this happened, it is possible to eventually deduce what letter on the grid the patient is focusing on.

    So as you can see, "Computer that can read your mind" is a rather sensationalist article title to say the least. It's also a massive pain in the ass to try to use a device like this, you literally have to focus on the letter you want to type and absolutely nothing else, or it'll take longer and longer to determine what letter you are 'typing'.
    • In fact, it doesn't read minds. It merely interprets certain kinds of brain activity. Not the same thing. Not nearly the same thing. In the same way your mind has to tell your brain to move your finger to type on your keyboard, your mind has to tell your brain to activate certain neuron groups to provide inputs to this device. It's just a fancy keyboard that you don't have to touch.

      Real mind reading can't happen until we first understand how the brain creates the mind. Therefore, don't believe it when yo

      • Exactly, although the way it works is quite clever, it's definitely orders of magnitude away from actual mind reading.
    • 50 years is a long time. I mean, 50 years ago in the field of brain science we were using electro shock therapy. There wasn't an ethics commitee for psychiatric experimentation (which resulted in shrinks torturing people). We had just recently discovered DNA. We just completed our first integrated circuit. And our technology increases exponentially (thus far) not linearly.

      Really, if governments cared about technology or perhaps a tech-race started.. Then we'd see this stuff fairly quickly (ability to read
  • Clinical trials (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) <marc DOT paradise AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @04:47PM (#31350188) Homepage Journal

    I would hope this has to go through the same clinical trials that introducing a drug would. The fact that you can "learn to be relaxed, focused. You improve." means that you're changing the frequency and wavelength of your brain's electrical output to comply with the requirements of this device.

    Me, I'd want to be damned sure that wasn't going to introduce long-term side effects before using it.

    • Maybe you do that while watching television too, or using headphones. Would you suggest clinical trials for those devices as well?
      • And you know that we're talking about the same kinds of modifications how, exactly? If you're not a neurologist who's familiar with the actual product implementation, there's a fair chance you don't.

        While I am no neurologist, I've done good bit chunk of research into this while looking into developing something similar in the late 90s. (My development had progressed to the point of working out partnerships with equipment providers.) In the end, I decided against it because there was simply not much publ

    • ...you're changing the frequency and wavelength of your brain's electrical output to comply with the requirements of this device.

      TV does the same thing.

    • by Vellmont (569020)


      The fact that you can "learn to be relaxed, focused. You improve." means that you're changing the frequency and wavelength of your brain's electrical output to comply with the requirements of this device.

      WTF? You don't think you do exactly the same thing every time you have a thought? It's amazing to me that anyone would worry about "medical testing" for anything as simple as a device that asks you to think about something.

      Maybe your post should have to undergo medical testing because "we don't know the l

  • This is just another tired P300 system. Yes, it works, eventually, with practice, and with a messy setup. But the signal was discovered in 1965, and this is far from the first implementation of it, or even the first mass-market computerized commercial one (which I think was IntendiX, though that was pretty recently).
  • Wouldn't that be a better world? Posts would be short. And insightful. Like this one.
  • According to the more detailed description of how this works, lights go across the letters and each time it passes a letter you want to add you need to concentrate. So it basically has a brain activity meter and can tell if you're thinking hard or not, it's not like you concentrate on the letter A and the machine reads it from your mind. I think your thoughts are quite safe for a long time to come.

  • by BigSlowTarget (325940) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @05:02PM (#31350354) Journal

    Is this thing really trying to recognize and distinguish twenty or thirty different brain patterns each associated with a particular letter, number or mark? It seems setting it up to read morse code or some other binary coded system would make it faster and easier on the user. You could even put the letters and codes up on the screen. Too bad the article doesn't have more info.

    • Somebody mod this guy up, this would be way more efficient!
    • Perhaps its because (and I'm just speculating here) everyone's brain patterns for the letter A and B are relatively similar. The problem with morse code and binary is that No one except avid hobbyists use that for communication anymore. By the time I learned what morse code was, it was outdated.

      Also, how do you distinguish between on & off - when no state is desired?

  • Yarmulke (Score:5, Funny)

    by Ukab the Great (87152) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @05:03PM (#31350360)

    The system makes use of a skull cap and wireless technology to transform brain waves into letters.

    Geek #1: At my cousin's bar-mitzvah they had this enormous LAN party where everyone was wearing a mind reading computer, which was really sweet, but no one wanted to play with me and everyone was talking in some funny language.

    Geek #2: That wasn't a LAN party, you idiot, that was a synagogue.

    • by infinite9 (319274)

      I've heard of that! That's where people get together and put Yamahas on their heads, right?

  • by edittard (805475)
    At last, someone implemented DWIM [catb.org].
  • We already have this. I think it's called emacs.

  • by edittard (805475) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @05:39PM (#31350826)

    Designed primarily to help those who can't write or speak

    See, slashdotters - somebody cares about you.

  • So I guess it will be some time before one will be able to get a frosty piss that way.

  • Vocalizing a sound is a mechanical activity directed by your brain.

    Deciphering those directions to your vocal mechanics is a long way from deciphering the underlying representational system which you used to decide what to communicate. No one has a clue about that system or its logic.

    So, you're dreams are safe.

    Unless you twitter them away.

  • by Reed Solomon (897367) on Wednesday March 03, 2010 @06:46PM (#31351686) Homepage

    meow meow/meow meow,meow meow/meow meow,
    meow meow/meow meow/meow meow/meow meow.

    postcomment compression filter can kiss my butt.

  • Nurse: Is there anything you need?

    Patient: H.......E.......A.......D

    Nurse: Hmph. [Storms out of the room]

    Patient: ......^H.......T

  • Does this thing really measure brain neuron electrical signals, or does it measure scalp muscle electrical signals (electromyograph)?

  • Words have several meanings, thinking on a word, specially in different contexts, could have different waves. So having something without different associations, like letters, can be used for this. But you could still can have "hotkeys" waves, that means something maybe abstract, or maybe very used, and have them as hotkeys.

    And with 30second/letter times, using cellphone like assisted writting could be useful (and there you need "keys" to select which offered word anyway), or like this [joaquimrocha.com] in a desktop environ

  • I can imagine it now....

    Arm pick up the ball.
    Arm pick up the ball.
    Arm pick up THE BALL!!
    ARM PICK UP THE BALL!!

Reference the NULL within NULL, it is the gateway to all wizardry.

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