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Research Lets You Type Words By Thought Alone 114

An anonymous reader writes "How about typing on a computer just by thinking about it? The downside is you have to wear a skull cap with electrodes that capture your brain waves like an EEG machine. According to this EE Times story, a team of researchers from Belgium and the Netherlands has presented Mind Speller, a thought-to-text device intended to help people with movement disabilities. The system does rely on a lot of processing on a remote computer, but it is a wireless system. And these thought-to-computer systems have wider applicability than medical support. One of the research groups involved in this development has already looked at wireless electroencephalography (EEG) to enable measures of emotion to be fed back into computer games."
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Research Lets You Type Words By Thought Alone

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  • Interesting. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by clone53421 ( 1310749 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @12:17PM (#31585014) Journal

    The last article that was posted [] was only about typing individual letters, and of course people were quick to say how useless that was: slow and impractical.

    And of course the researchers thought so too, which was fine because the technology isn’t done yet.

    • The downside is you have to wear a skull cap with electrodes that capture your brain waves like an EEG machine.

      I'm guessing it's progress, but I'd end up with documents that were full of "man, this is the 2nd stupidest hat I've ever had to wear at work" repeated over and over again.

      • Only the 2nd stupidest?

        Anyway, I’m sure it will continue to improve, and they’ll obviously have to figure out some way to filter out the thoughts that randomly pass through people’s minds as they’re using this. Although a passing thought may not even trigger this because it would be such a different brain pattern than that shown during the focused concentration of “typing”.

        • Only the 2nd stupidest?

          You're right... it's probably more like the 7th stupidest.

        • by TheLink ( 130905 )
          > they'll obviously have to figure out some way to filter out the thoughts that randomly pass through people's minds

          Trivial to solve: they could use escape sequences.
      • Man, that lady's got a huge ass.

        Those could be anyone's thoughts!

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Thought reading devices are the second most hyped technology I've ever read about.

        (As quantum computing is the second most hyped area of computer science.

        (Do thoughts exist before or after your consciousness has observed them?)

      • Thought based typing is nice.....

        but I'm looking forward to the Outer Limits' thought-based sex machine. (See season 2.) All you do is THINK the action and it's transmitted over hundreds of miles to your partner in a similar machine who feels the result.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ircmaxell ( 1117387 )
          That could get VERY dangerous... Just imagine if you thought something along the lines of "I'd love to just ram it in her ass". Just remember, it's all fun and games until someone gets a prolapsed rectum...
      • by Qzukk ( 229616 )

        I'm guessing it's progress, but I'd end up with documents that were full of "man, this is the 2nd stupidest hat I've ever had to wear at work" repeated over and over again.

        I suspect that would be an improvement for many reports. Now, if halfway through you got "but at least it's not as stupid as the boss's tie", then you're going to have a problem.

    • Re:Interesting. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by captaindomon ( 870655 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @12:35PM (#31585348)
      People won't think it is slow and impractical if they have suffered total paralysis for some reason, and this is their first chance to communicate with the outside world and loved ones. Sure, I'm not going to use it for replacing my keyboard any time soon, but this technology in the right setting will seem so incredibly miraculous it will change people's lives.
      • Seems like even the letter version could be useful if you train it.

        I would expect this sort of technology could be trained by typing, and gradually learn enough that you don't need to move your hands, you just think similarly to how you do when you type.

      • This was my initial reaction to it also. Currently, people with total paralysis or "locked in syndrome" may be lucky enough to blink to communicate. In fact, that is how the absolutely wonderful book, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly [] by Jean-Dominique Bauby was written.

        He suffered from locked in syndrome after a car crash and wrote the book by blinking character by character to a nurse. Technology like this could really help people like that, and researchers who want to communicate with people otherwi
        • I thought the method used by Jason Becker [] was quite an amazing low-tech solution. They had a board with letters in a grid on it and he would use his eyes to look at different areas of the grid in order to convey a message. The people around him are able to understand him simply by watching his eye movements now (without the assistance of the board to translate). If that wasn't enough, he also writes some astonishing music. This guy is pretty much my hero.
    • by Jurily ( 900488 )

      the technology isn't done yet

      Thoughts wander. The hands not only input data, they filter it. Unless this thing has something analogous, it's useless and will remain so, no matter how much you can input at a time.

      • Re:Interesting. (Score:4, Informative)

        by joeyblades ( 785896 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @12:57PM (#31585740)
        Not to worry, it doesn't actually process thought. It just capitalizes on your brain's ability to create certain repeatable patterns. Then you train the device to recognize those patterns. It's a far cry from reading thoughts. In fact, it's much closer to typing... just without using your fingers
        • by Mashdar ( 876825 )

          I would have a very hard time thinking about every letter I type. I type words, not letters :) Try it right now. Thinking about the letters will get you to forget what your word/sentence/whole thought was.

        • Interesting side node: It will in the process change your view of the world, by creating bigger associations between whatever is stored in the areas where you create those patterns (or in other words: what you think about), thereby changing your character and who you are.

          Yes, this happens with every input in our head. But the problem is that it’s not an input in this case, but a random learning. As opposed to real inputs, where your learning always has a point and a use. (Yes even the stupid lolcat an

        • It could even be very efficient, if coupled with something like "Dasher" ( By choosing just a few 'patterns' you could very easily direct the Dasher program to type for you (using for example just something for "start" "up" "down" "reverse" "finished". And maybe "slower" "faster".)
    • Specifically it detects and interprets what are known as P300 event-related potentials in the EEG-signals of a person that is selecting characters from a display presenting alternate rows and columns of characters.

      It sounds like they haven't made any progress in speed what-so-fucking-ever, they've simply made it more comfortable to wear, and changed the interface very slightly.

      If they want to speed it up, why not use the predictive texting stuff? It's usually fairly accurate, and if it doesn't bring up the word they want, they keep doing the letter-by-letter.

    • by radtea ( 464814 )

      of course people were quick to say how useless that was: slow and impractical.

      Actually some of us said the hype was stupid.

      By thought ALONE, eh?

      So, like, no cables, computers, software, hardware...? All I have to do is think, and my typing appears somewhere, without any intervening, like, STUFF?

      Because that's what "alone" would seem to mean. No one would think it reasonable or honest to say, "Automobile allows people to travel huge distances at high speeds by ARMS ALONE!" even though that's what cruise control does. We'd all recognize that as misleading and stupid.

      So why do we ke

      • *me rolls eyes*

        No one would think it reasonable or honest to say, "Automobile allows people to travel huge distances at high speeds by ARMS ALONE!"

        No, but perfectly reasonable to say “power steering allows people to drive their car with only the slightest movement of their arms”.

        “Drive their car” implies obvious stuff like the car and a steering wheel by which to drive it. Similarly “type words” implies obvious stuff like a device to display the words (computer) and hardware to interact with you (hat and the box it’s attached to) so that you can type.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      According to most Web2.0 internet users, ANYTHING that requires thought for input would be considered "useless, slow, and impractial" :)
    • Bu think of the possibilities... humanity beyond slashdot might finally have an incentive to form coherent thoughts
  • On the surface, this sounds shit fuck fantastic, but reality is, I gotta take a crap our brains don't focus my leg itches like that. Well, at least titties mine doesn't.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Yeah, every time my boss drops by, my browser immediately goes to
    • I wanted to comment on the wrongness of the moderation this post received, but instead all my brain is thinking is that whoever the douche is that moderated this a troll mod needs their points taken away and needs to get laid something fierce.

  • Using this in computer games seems nifty, but I can see some definite issues that it would introduce. Lets say you use emotional feedback to adjust difficulty; you want them challenged but not frustrated. Problem is, if they pause the game, get a snack, and come back, you can't make them resume the same emotional state they had when they paused. When they come back refreshed, the game will assume it isn't challenging them anymore and unleash hell.

    I'm not saying this can't be worked around (wait a couple min

  • Cool tech (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anarki2004 ( 1652007 )
    I really think this is an amazing bit of technology, I'm just afraid of what it could potentially be turned into. This is not something I would want law enforcement to start practicing. OTOH, it seems to have the potential to help a great deal of people too, so guess you have to take the good with the bad.
  • Multilingual (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Wowsers ( 1151731 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @12:22PM (#31585094) Journal
    You better not be multilingual, you get stuck on a word in one language, and your thoughts on "oh damn, what's that word, sounds like whatever" gets put into your document as you're trying to remember the damn word you wanted.
    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by purpledinoz ( 573045 )
      What about when that really hot girl walks by?

      printf("Hello Wor Oh my god, look at that ass. I would really love to... shit, it's being typed out. Delete delete delete
  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @12:22PM (#31585112)
    Wouldn't this work a lot like the canine speech synthesizers in "Up", except instead of suddenly going "Squirrel!", it goes "Tits!" all the time?
    • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @12:27PM (#31585214) Homepage

      Only if the subject is stationary. In a walkby, you'd get a Doppler effect:

      tits tits tits tits tits tits TITS! TITS! ASS! ASS! ass ass ass ass ass ass

    • What if #$^%@! I have *&#^$@ Tourette's Syndrome #&*$@! you #*&^@ insensitive clod?
    • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @12:35PM (#31585356)

      I really don't think that shit minimize slashdot, boss No i was just working on that TPS Report you wante ok, gone this technology has too much use beyond drop the pencil drop the pencil the physically impairedPERIOD bend at the hips bend at the hips I'm sure that Hawking would love to be able to Sweet! new Android phone I wonder if I should switch. damn nothing is affordable Damn it. WTF. Why do we get raped on these prices ALT-TAB Vector Canape. where was I. Oh yeah trying to record data on that Crap forgot about that slashdot post I was making. I think that if they could speed it up so that it could keep up with the hrm that smells good. I wonder what is for lunch normal mind it would be great. The soft wear damn it, no ware ware would have to keep track it's wait, I thank that's only for it is. Um its homophones and other things that were similar.

    • by denzacar ( 181829 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @01:10PM (#31585930) Journal

      Watch out for that guy whose text is riddled with "DIE!", "DIE MOTHERFUCKER!", "I HATE YOU ALL!" and "ONE DAY YOU WILL ALL BURN!".

      He brings a heavy looking sports-bag in the office one day - find a reason to quickly step outside.

      • He brings a heavy looking sports-bag in the office one day - find a reason to quickly step outside.

        If you get enough people to do that, he could wind up like this guy [].

      • A reason? By the time you came up with it, it’s already too late.
        Oh, and even a single gas bottle can wreck the whole house, while fitting in that sports bag. So unless you step out of the whole building, you will be one of those who aren’t liberated by death, but still alive under the rocks for a slow and painful death.

        Better just make a quick run. You will have enough to think up an excuse when nothing happened and you came back.
        (Protip: Raising you phone to your ear and running outside while

  • ...what I want is to be able to transmit images from my brain onto a computer monitor. I have a TON of (what I think as) really cool and creative images in my head, but completely lack the artistic ability to even begin to sketch/draw/paint them.

    I doubt I'm the only one in this hellishly frustrating situation -_-;;

    • Sometimes with images, but usually with music. I'll get a guitar riff or something in my head that I know sounds awesome, but even though I can play guitar a little, I can't get that sound through the guitar. A way of recording the audio in my head would be awesome.

    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      The pictures in your head are what matter; the rest can be learned. These days you don't even need eye-hand coordination, since we have programs like Photoshop. Take some classes at your local university or community college, I'm sure they have an art department.

      Coming up with an idea is the hard part, exersizing it is easy (which is why I don't have more journals than I do -- I have to wait for the muse to hit).

      • by Pojut ( 1027544 )

        Eh, I've gotten over it. I much prefer making music []'s difficult to find the specific kind of music I want to listen to, so I figured making it would be the best solution. I played French Horn, Clarinet, and Piano when I was younger, plus I still have full retention of how to read music and the actual structure of music creation, so it didn't take much time or investment to get up and running.

        It's served me well enough...I would love to write the scary short stories in my head, and I would love

  • While logged in a root I thought, "rm -rf /" Damn.
  • That'd explain those college SEX essays where paragraphPORNs have random words inside a sentence.
  • Booooobiiiieeees!!

  • girls and it works babes quite well beer

  • Boobs I've been Boobs using this Boobs for a while Boobs and it does Boobs pretty well Boobs. But it Boobs sometimes takes longer Boobs to go back and Boobs edit my writing.

    So I don't bother.


  • It'll be far easier than typing with one hand.

  • but will it set your mind in motion?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Tekfactory ( 937086 )


      Still Will Alone that you set your thoughts in motion, still the Blood of Sapho, Diet Coke or Mountain Dew that the thoughts aquire speed.

  • so this would be wonderful.

    Bursitis in right thumb, carpal tunnel both hands. nerve damage from chemo.

    I can type- but it's like level "2" (of 10) pain, every keystroke.

    I looked into the NIA and have used voice software.

  • I can't wait for them to get it hooked up to my iPod so I can write while I jog. I don't care about silly hats if I can transcribe my thoughts. I realize I'll need to edit the output, but that's a small price to pay.

  • Dear Sirs [porn]

    I would like to enquire about your [porn] new line of [porn] fasteners for [porn] light duty fabric [porn][porn][porn]. I would like to [porn] get [porn] samples and estimated costs [porn] ffor these fasteners [porn]. Please call me [porn][porn] at your earliest opportunity [porn]. ...

  • by petrus4 ( 213815 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @12:49PM (#31585604) Homepage Journal just how little I apparently think about sex, relative to the general population. There is a period of roughly once every 24 hours where the subject comes up, for the most part, and that is it. If I go outside, and happen to run into some women, it might be more than that, but on days when I stay in, it genuinely doesn't.

    I guess I'm just really abnormal.

    • by jpmorgan ( 517966 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @12:57PM (#31585734) Homepage

      Or perhaps you're perfectly normal and the whole 'men can't not think about sex all the time' is misandrist bullshit.

      • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

        Indeed; someone should mod you up. Those obvious jokes (except the first one) should be modded "redundant".

      • by sowth ( 748135 ) *

        Indeed. While men have high hormone levels as teenagers, women have the same high hormone levels in their 30s. Men don't have more obsession with sex compared to women overall, they just have their "peak" earlier.

        I suppose you could get your "revenge" in your 30s by treating them the way they did to you in your teenage years, but it is all stupid.

    • +1, though probably closer to every 6 hours. Still, not nearly as often as these comments would indicate.
    • Well, the thing is: There is not much stimulation when you’re alone in your basement.
      If you ever get a GF, or go outside... or even both at the same time (*gasp*)... that will change. ^^

  • Amusing comments but the reality is that this is still the same old P300. You concentrate on a letter, they flash different letters on the screen for about 30 seconds, and it makes a guess at what letter you were thinking of. Then if it's right you go on to the next letter. Super super slow. Eye blink signals are probably just as fast. And if you can't use your eyes you probably can't use P300. I think there have been some studies trying to extract P300 signals from audio cues but they have not been too suc

  • Wrong title (Score:5, Informative)

    by Yvanhoe ( 564877 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @12:58PM (#31585746) Journal
    You can not write words by thought alone. This device allows to (painstakingly at a very slow speed) type letters. This is a great stuff but this is not the device you are looking for. This is mostly for disabled people.
    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      You can not write words by thought alone. This device allows to (painstakingly at a very slow speed) type letters.

      So does using a keyboard if you've never used one before.

    • by rdnetto ( 955205 )

      If they could they could scale the tech down a bit, maybe build it into a hat, combine it with some kind of HUD (either in the form of glasses or contacts), you'd have a true wearable computer.
      The low typing speed is a small price to pay for something that cool/useful.

  • 'Gives a whole new meaning to "Freudian slip."
  • This would be an interesting device indeed for those paralyzed with sudden, repetitive, stereotyped thoughts.
  • The image I see for me using this would just be a shotgun blast of words spewing onto the screen without any particular form or direction. It takes so much control for me to just type a sentence without other thoughts crossing into the stream of words. Without the physical filter of selectively typing words it would become incoherent babble almost instantaneously.

    Damn that was a workout.

  • Marty McFly: Hey, Doc Brown? Emmet Brown: Don't say a word! Come in. Marty: Hey, Doc. It's Marty! Doc: I don't want to know who you are. Put this on...
  • Damn! The next thing you know, they'll expect me to read TFA before posting.

  • I want to play someone else with different emotions in those games, not myself...
  • I guess if you're Rom Houben [], you'd have a legitimate need for one of these things.

    I mean, someone like Dr Steven Laureys would presumably come in, attach the electrode cap to your head, post the operating instructions on the ceiling over your bed, and leave you alone with it. After a few hours, if you've typed out "OMG Help Me I'm trapped and I can't move -- oh and please scratch my nose!" then you're not comatose.

  • Backspace (Score:2, Funny)

    by casals ( 885017 )
    How does it work? "The brown dog jumped over the lazy fo no wait that's wrong no dammit erase it no don't write erase no no you no erase e ra se back go back backspace erase it oh era no you fucking piece of shit just erase the fucking thing oh gosh how do you start again new control n new document create new fuck work thats it Im taking off this fuck--"
  • Should I comment on this story? Nah, it's not so important, what I have to say, anyway.

    • Hey! Someone must have hacked my account and posted with it! >-( Someone in this very room, even, since they heard what I was think...... !!!!!!!!

  • I just know that training my computer to recognize words in my mind would end up with me juxtaposing all of my brain farts into a completely unusable jumble. Or it would train me to clarify my internal monologue (dialogue?) so I made sense to myself. One of those. And a lot of proofreading would be mandatory for everything I "typed" with this.
  • We could finally understand Stephen Hawkins and find out the secrets of the universe.
  • What would be cool is if they made this sensitive enough, and trained someone well enough, that they could use it to communicate while dreaming.
    Of course, all you'd see is line after line of "The blue fish is mellooooow... How's that snarker, Mr. Handle? Where did I leave my other lung..." and the like, but it would still be fascinating.

  • and the surgery to implant it into the base of your skull is so painless it's no wonder I'm number 1! []

  • why hasn't Stephen Hawking been using it?

    Surely he'd be the best advertising for them?

    Mainly from just using it, of course, not from what he says with it.

  • Or any of the comatose patients which "facilitators" tell us are really alive and conscious?

  • ...then I'd have my thesis done by now. At least, that's what I keep telling myself.

If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith. -- Albert Einstein