Innovations controlled by brain activity man merging into the matrix

The Landon Orb (© NeuroSky)Why use a remote control when you can rely on your own cerebral cortex? We’ve got smartphones and Siri that respond to our voice; cameras and other gadgets that recognise our face; and even games consoles and TVs that can be controlled by the waving of arms or moving of legs, but isn’t all of this just a tad old-fashioned? In the future electronics will be silently and calmly controlled by thought alone, but that’s surely not possible yet – or is it?

Remarkably, scientists and developers have come up with various devices and applications where the brainwaves – the electrical impulses emitted by the interaction of a hundred billion neurons in our brains – can be measured and used in place of a handheld remote control or mouse. Many of these brain-computer interfaces are life-changing for severely disabled people, and they’re coming to a gadget near you soon. Is this the electronic world’s eureka moment?  The Landon Orb (© NeuroSky)

The brain-computer interface is what the EPOC headset is all about, and it gets further than most. Using sensors on the scalp to tune into high resolution electrical signals produced by the brain to detect a user’s thoughts, feelings and expressions, EPOC can be used for video games and computer control, but that’s not where it does its best work.

Its accurate reading of brain signals has enabled EPOC to be used by disabled people to operate a mind-controlled electric wheelchair, and also by visual artists for ground-breaking hands-free painting.

The Landon Orb (© NeuroSky)
With a self-defined duty to bridge the gap between technology and the human body, NeuroSky’s MindSet is a headset that indulges in electroencephalography (EEG), the recording of electrical activity in the brain below the scalp. You can see alpha and beta waves in your brain change as you swap from concentrating hard to meditating, listening to music or even blinking.

It’s these changes that are used to accomplish tasks in around 100 brain training games. It links to a PC, Mac, smartphones and tablets via Bluetooth.

The Landon Orb (© NeuroSky)

Flying is all about discipline, and none more so than when you’re remotely operating the Puzzlebox Orbit – using just your brain. A success on crowd-funding website Kickstarter, the Puzzlebox Orbit uses a NeuroSky MindWave Mobile headset to detect your state of mind, with both focusing intently on the helicoptor and being in a state of relaxation translated into separate commands. The relaying of all brainwave results to the helicopter – which is small enough to be flown/hovered indoors – is done over Bluetooth.

In place of a dashboard the pilot gets a Puzzlebox Pyramid whose LED lights indicate current levels of concentration, mental relaxation and brainwave signal quality. There’s even software that allows the Pyramid to replace any infra-red remote controls – and that means any TV or hi-fi. The Pyramid can be replaced by an iPhone, though you’ll need an accessory.

The Landon Orb (© NeuroSky)
Using a headset from NeuroSky, Chinese manufacturer Haier has been showing off a TV navigated solely by thought control. This one’s less well thought through, but the technology is fascinating; monitoring only the brainwaves in the scalp of the wearer, it’s possible to make an onscreen graphic of a ball rise and then fall just by thinking intensely for a moment, then relaxing. It may sound too simple, but once user interfaces are built around the on/off principle, and headsets shrink or become invisible, it could become second nature for some functions. Imagine changing the volume or TV channel just by thinking!

The Landon Orb (© NeuroSky)
Gaze interaction assistive technology might not sound like proper science, but this simple eye-tracking device helps severely disabled people communicate, some for the first time. It could be life-changing for sufferers of autism, cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy, as users of these eye-tracking communication devices – which have either 12” or 15” touchscreens – can gaze at icons to fire up Skype or Facebook, zoom in on websites or even wake up a device just by looking at ‘hotspots’ on the screen.
“With the precision of Tobii’s Gaze Interaction technology, the I-Series gives not only voice to people who can’t speak but also a sense of control and greater independence,” says Oscar Werner, executive vice president of assistive technology at Tobii. “It gives people their lives back.”

The Landon Orb (© NeuroSky)
A brain-sensing device aimed at gamers, Muse is a six-sensor headband that measures brainwaves and sends them to a smartphone or tablet. For now it’s fixed on showing you how well your brain is performing via the included Brain Health System app, which comprises some basic brain control games that help reduce stress, improve memory and encourage concentration, but much more is promised in the future.
Though it’s currently able only to discern two variables in calculating whether a brain is stressed or relaxed, developers at the manufacturer InteraXon promise more functionality in the near future that will let Muse translate brainwaves into basic instructions, allowing interaction with everyday content on iOS or Android devices, as well as on computers and TVs.

The Landon Orb (© NeuroSky)

Bioinformatics company Emotiv Lifesciences has developed this headset for brain researchers wanting to compare our grey matter and accelerate understanding. Insight, a wireless headset using the same gyroscope and accelerometer found in smartphones, has seven dry polymer biosensors that record, then translate, human brainwaves. Insight, which works with Android, iOS, OSX, Linux and Windows, has a unique cloud-powered platform behind it; data from each wearer’s brain is uploaded for crowd-sourced brain research to begin.

As well as interpreting simple mental commands like push, pull, levitate and rotate, Insight can detect a frown, a smile or even a surprised look as well as the wearer’s excitement, engagement, relaxation and stress levels. In short, Insight reveals how well a human brain is performing

Emotiv EPOC (© Emotiv)
Why hasn’t Apple thought of this? Instead of leaping into the deep end with a computer solely controlled by eyes, Tobii has teamed up with a touchpad maker to produce the ultimate multimodal ultrabook. Combining a Synaptics ForcePad touchpad and the new Tobii Gaze eye-tracking technology, a short blink or a series of a few blinks is all it takes to open applications and files, or navigate a cursor around a screen.
“This is an extremely exciting time in the evolution of human computing,” says Stan Swearingen, the chief technology officer and senior vice president of advanced development at Synaptics. “The combination of gaze and touch literally redefines the human computer interface for notebook and desktop PC users, who want the ultimate intuitive computer experience.” With face recognition already a feature of webcams in some laptops, tablets and smartphones, eye-tracking could replace both mouse and touchscreen.

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Emotiv EPOC (© Emotiv)

Video game obsessives have gone on for yonks about how playing their favourite games for hours on end can help develop reaction times and improve concentration. We’re about to find out the truth: the NeuroSky MindWave Education headset measures the brainwave signals and attention levels of students as they play educational games involving maths, memory and pattern recognition.

Designed to help students extend their powers of concentration, the NeuroSky MindWave Education package includes 10 apps.

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