Posts Tagged ‘Brain–computer interface’

When the encyclopedia in your pocket is wired into your brain

January 20, 2019

All human knowledge is not, yet, available on the web. All the knowledge which is available on the web is not, yet, available to each of us. But all that is available on the web is already available to each of us who has a connected smart phone in a pocket. With every connected smart phone there is an encyclopedia in a pocket.

But using such an encyclopedia is not, yet, instantaneous. It is not yet a part of your brain. It is not just the choice of browser or search engine (e.g. Google) or the repository (e.g.Wikipedia). You still have to search the web. You still have to ask the right question. You still have to discard the advertisements and the fake news and select the relevant information. It takes a little time. By the time you find the right answer the conversation may have moved on to another topic, such that presenting the information you found in your pocket may be embarrassingly irrelevant.

Nevertheless, everyone with a connected smart phone now has an encyclopedia in their pocket. And, I would guess, this encyclopedia will be implanted and connected to the brain within the next 50 years.

We are already in the age of implants.

Currently, implants are being used in many different parts of the body for various applications such as orthopaedics, pacemakers, cardiovascular stents, defibrillators, neural prosthetics or as drug delivery systems. Concurrent with the increased life span in today’s world, the number of age-related diseases has also increased. Hence, the need for new treatments, implants, prostheses and long-term pharmaceutical usage as well as the need for prolonging the life span of the current techniques has increased. 

Implants where thoughts can be used to control computers are already with us. Brain-computer interfaces (BCI’s) which were first thought of in the 1970s are now with us to stay.

image from Frontiersin.org

When drone warfare emerged, pilots could, for the first time, sit in an office in the U.S. and drop bombs in the Middle East. Now, one pilot can do it all, just using their mind — no hands required.

Earlier this month, DARPA, the military’s research division, unveiled a project that it had been working on since 2015: technology that grants one person the ability to pilot multiple planes and drones with their mind.

“As of today, signals from the brain can be used to command and control … not just one aircraft but three simultaneous types of aircraft,” Justin Sanchez, director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office, said, according to Defense One.

….. Back in 2016, a volunteer equipped with a brain-computer interface (BCI) was able to pilot an aircraft in a flight simulator while keeping two other planes in formation — all using just his thoughts, ….. In 2017, Copeland was able to steer a plane through another simulation, this time receiving haptic feedback — if the plane needed to be steered in a certain direction, Copeland’s neural implant would create a tingling sensation in his hands.

We cannot yet, at will, without noticeable delay, mentally call for and access some particular information from the entire store of human knowledge.  But it is no longer science fiction to imagine people with an implant which has all the abilities of a mobile, smart phone. It will be an implant where the input/output interface would no longer require the use of fingers or the reading of a physical screen. Your thoughts (and perhaps also sub-vocalisations) would be sufficient to trigger the appropriate questions to the web. The answers would be projected onto your eyes or enter your brain subliminally. Humans would have to become far more practiced not only at distinguishing between interfacing with the external world and internally connecting with the web, but also with mental multi-tasking in a way never required before.

Maybe not in 10 years but surely within 50.


 

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Imagined action from one brain converted to actual action by another brain

August 28, 2013

It is not quite telepathy but it is the stuff of science fiction. It could be the beginnings of mind-to-mind communication or perhaps it could be the beginnings of mind-control. An EEG signal was transmitted from one brain to a particular part of another brain and elicited a response from the body of the second. Admittedly only from that part of that body controlled by that part of the second brain.

Which begs the question as to whether any signal stimulating that part of that second brain would have elicited a similar response? But this is not the time to cavil or to find fault. The possibilities are endless. If I could imagine actions which would then be carried out by – say President Obama – we could all live in a better place!!

A brain-to-brain communication between two rats and also between a human and a rat have been reported from Duke University and from Harvard. Now from the University of Washington comes this report of the “first” brain-to-brain communication (via the internet) between two humans.

From the UoW press release:

Using electrical brain recordings and a form of magnetic stimulation, Rajesh Rao sent a brain signal to Andrea Stocco on the other side of the UW campus, causing Stocco’s finger to move on a keyboard.

Brain signals from the “Sender” are recorded. When the computer detects imagined hand movements, a “fire” command is transmitted over the Internet to the TMS machine, which causes an upward movement of the right hand of the “Receiver.” This usually results in the “fire” key being hit. – UoW

Rao, a UW professor of computer science and engineering, has been working on brain-computer interfacing in his lab for more than 10 years and just published a textbook on the subject. In 2011, spurred by the rapid advances in technology, he believed he could demonstrate the concept of human brain-to-brain interfacing. So he partnered with Stocco, a UW research assistant professor in psychology at the UW’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences.

 On Aug. 12, Rao sat in his lab wearing a cap with electrodes hooked up to an electroencephalography machine, which reads electrical activity in the brain. Stocco was in his lab across campus wearing a purple swim cap marked with the stimulation site for the transcranial magnetic stimulation coil that was placed directly over his left motor cortex, which controls hand movement.

The team had a Skype connection set up so the two labs could coordinate, though neither Rao nor Stocco could see the Skype screens.

Rao looked at a computer screen and played a simple video game with his mind. When he was supposed to fire a cannon at a target, he imagined moving his right hand (being careful not to actually move his hand), causing a cursor to hit the “fire” button. Almost instantaneously, Stocco, who wore noise-canceling earbuds and wasn’t looking at a computer screen, involuntarily moved his right index finger to push the space bar on the keyboard in front of him, as if firing the cannon. Stocco compared the feeling of his hand moving involuntarily to that of a nervous tic.

“It was both exciting and eerie to watch an imagined action from my brain get translated into actual action by another brain,” Rao said. “This was basically a one-way flow of information from my brain to his. The next step is having a more equitable two-way conversation directly between the two brains.”

The researchers captured the full demonstration on video recorded in both labs. This video and high-resolution photos also are available on the research website.


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