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Intel’s Mind-Reading Computer

4/07/2010 02:53:00 PM

Intel Labs must be a pretty cool place to work, if for no other reason than the company lets its researchers spend time and money attempting to create some truly mind-blowing technology, like the ability to directly input data from your brain into a PC.
The crazy/scary thing is the Intel guys seem to be making some serious progress.
The project is called “The Human Brain, the Ultimate Interface to Computers,” and the Intel Labs team has taken the first baby steps in figuring how to get a thought from a person into a computer without any type of wired connection.
However, conspiracy theorists need not worry too much as Intel senior research Dean Pomerleau assured the press that no brain implant will be needed.
“People will be able to interact with a device through the power of thought,” he said.
To say that the small details for this concept have not been totally worked out yet would be a major understatement, but the project has made some intriguing advances, such as mapping how the human brain behaves and then transferring that data to a computer.
So far, Pomerleau and his team have spent much of their time during the course of the three-year-old project mapping how the human brain reacts when thinking of a certain word.
Using an MRI machine, a test subject thinks of a word like cow or house and the MRI measures the brain activity kicked off by that thought. This is then mapped and stored on the computer, so when it sees this particular brain activity, it knows what the person is thinking about.
Possible uses for this technology are off the charts, but Pomerleau said simple tasks like sending a text message could be done by just thinking and the message would be sent to that person’s cellphone or PC.
Intel is now focusing on the biggest, literally, stumbling block in making this idea a reality: shrinking the MRI-type machine down to a usable size and making it more affordable than the $2 million machine now being used. He showed a headphone setup that could be used to “read” brain activity and then transfer it to the Internet.
Granted, a live demonstration was not given, but Pomerleau said people have had thoughts that were picked up and mapped by the MRI machine and sent out to a computer for translation.
“This is a proof of concept,” Pomerleau said, adding any real-life applications were no less than 10 years out.

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