Imagine if you could use your PC or smartphone without your hands and fingers – send a text by thinking it, work on multiple computers by glancing at Apps and icons on the screen. Close and open tabs and windows write in documents. If you’re thinking that all sounds like something from Ghost in the Shell, you’d be right. But also, it’s a real thing allowed by a device that costs just short of $400.
NextMind, a French tech start-up and commercial version of a cognitive neuroscience lab, claims that their new kit will allow users to “…control anything in their digital world by using just their thoughts”, writes NetworkWorld.
The device, which inserts into a cap or headband, rests at the back of the head, there a dry electrode-based receiver reads and interprets data from electrical signals generated by the activity of neurons. The device interacts with computers, AR, VR and IoT modules. NextMind claims that the device offers ‘direct brain command’.
“Imagine taking your phone to send a text message without ever touching the screen, without using Siri, just by using the speed and power of your thoughts,” says NextMind founder Sid Kouider at the Helsinki start-up conference Slush in 2019.
Through advancements in neuroscience, the device doesn’t need to be implanted in one’s head top function. The device performs real-time consciousness-decoding without being invasive. This new non-invasion method is a direct result of one of this type of technologies greatest obstacles, namely the human skull which an act as a barrier to the sensors.
Scientists struggle to often differentiate indicators from noise when it comes to the skull, and past efforts have only been able to decipher things like whether or not a person is asleep or in a state of relaxation. However new materials, better sensors, and even more sophisticated algorithms have overcome such obstacles. Even though NextMind’s technology noninvasively “translated the data in real-time,” as Kouider says, it is yet perfect in function.
NextMind’s device works on the principle that what a person sees is projected onto the visual cortex in the back of the head – we’ve all seen those biology diagrams with the upside-down cat or dog in a man’s head – like a projector. NextMind’s device then decodes the neural activity created as the object is viewed and then the decoded information is sent, via SDK, back into the input device of your choice. For example, you could open Microsoft Word by simply glancing at it in your taskbar or desktop.
While the technology is still imperfect and room for improvement and fine-tuning is present, there is no doubt that it does work, said Emil Protalinski of VentureBeat, who had tested a pre-release version of the device in January.
“It gives you a kind of sixth sense, where you can feel your brain in action, thanks to the feedback loop between your brain and a display,” Kouider says in the Slush presentation.
By Luis Monzon
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