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Thought-Controlled Apps On Android May Not Be Far 72

Posted by timothy
from the add-gps-and-stir dept.
Julie188 writes "A small PC device company wants to bring thought-controlled apps to the Android market. Mind Technologies (once known by the cute name of Jedi Mind) has promised to make it so. Mind Technologies makes PC devices (a game controller and mouse) that work with the strange-but-true Emotiv headset. Emotiv uses brain waves to operate machines. Although it sounds far fetched, electroencephalogram (EEG) controllers do work, but the products on the market so far are not as easy to use, let alone master, as their makers claim."
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Thought-Controlled Apps On Android May Not Be Far

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 25, 2010 @07:48PM (#34346294)

    EEG-based brain-computer interfaces work fine, but there are definite physical limits to what you can do with them.

    You absolutely cannot "read thoughts" with EEG. It is not possible, it will almost certainly never be possible. This is a physical limitation due to being on the outside of the skull. The one and only thing EEG picks up is the amount of electrical activity in that general region. Sensitivity and signal-to-noise and environmental noise rejection will place further limitations since they will be somewhat lower on even a good consumer unit. Particularly if you don't want to shave your head before use.

    Now, if you realize that, if you respect the limits, you can still do some pretty cool stuff. It's not that hard to make a computer interface based on using an EEG to pick up a P300 response that is absolutely world-changing for people without the physical capacity to use something else. Devices like this have been in research for a bejesus long time now, and the only reason you don't see more use of things like the Emotiv headset for this purpose is that people with that sort of physical limitation generally can't put on the fancy brain-reading hat. (Researchers are currently working on a single-surgery implanted version which will stay in place for decades, so that won't be a problem forever.)

    But is this practical for everyday use? Well, for some things. For a smartphone interface, probably not - particularly for more effective headsets like Emotiv which use saline electrodes. The input afforded by an EEG-based interface is very low for a portable device with a smartphone's use scenarios. However, it could be a good secondary form of control for complex systems (starting with games), particularly if it's relegated to things like biosensing for biosensing's sake or mode switching. You can use it for direct input, and humans will learn VERY fast how to work it...but it's not really physically capable of providing the same level of direct input affordances that other methods could. Expecting it to do so is just not very realistic and shows a lack of understanding of the limitations of the physical processes involved.

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