Brain User Interface?
by Mark Finnern
Smart predicts the coming of the Linguistic
User Interface(LUI) for around 2020. Microsoft
Research is already working on it, actually
voice recognition, the first step towards a LUI will be an integral part of
Longhorn. Same at SAP,
voice can be used as one of the many channels to interact
with their applications.
But slow down, I hate it already today when people are yapping on their cell
phone in a public space. Although, I admit, that sometimes I am one of them.
Same in cubical country, it is super distracting when people are on the phone
in the office, which usually is only one or two. With the LUI it would be everyone.
Give me a break.
Maybe we can jump that, or leave it somewhere in the privacy of our homes. The data rate of 160 words per minute is far better than the 40 to 60 that you get on a keyboard, but how about going directly to a brain user interface (BUI).
I was getting hopeful when I saw professor Kevin Warwick, self proclaimed first cyborg, as he is the first human that implanted a chip into his body (you have to discount all the people with pacemakers, minor detail.)
He presented his research at Stanford a couple of weeks back. Professor
Warwick connected a chip to a nerve fiber of his left arm and was able
to send signals through that nerve to a computer, as well as getting signals
back from the computer to his brain. After a bit of training he could manipulate
a robotic arm even over the Internet.
The video that he showed, looked to me as if the robotic hand movement was
only binary on or off. I could not discern fine-motor movements. When I asked
him, he assured us, that while blindfolded he was able to grab a raw egg without
He also showed a video of an experiment, where he was blindfolded and the electrode
in his arm was hooked up to movement sensors attached to his head. When his
assistants would go towards him with a large piece of cardboard he would get
such a strong signal, that he would jump back.
I was sure, that the human body would reject such a foreign object, but to my astonishment he said that it was tough to get the device out of his body, because it was so grown in.
remember once seeing a documentary about the first flight of the Wright Brothers.
Back then I thought, what's the big deal, they barely left the ground. I didn't
realize back then that it was a big deal, because humans for the first time
left the ground powered by an engine. (Which if you have not heard happened
100 years ago this month: December 17th. The picture to the right has to be
over 100 years old and can't be copyrighted anymore, or am I wrong? I will take
it down otherwise.)
Kevin Warwick's findings felt a bit like this "barely off the ground",
total baby steps, but the possibilities are humongous. One of them is the BUI:
You formulate your email in your brain and like magic it appears on the screen.
Researching his work, or ahem Googling him, I realized, that you have to take
what he says with a grain of salt. The register even calls him Captain
Cyborg and has a whole list of articles dedicated to his publicity stunts.
Probably the LUI will be before the BUI.
Noise cancelling headphones
"Same in cubical country, it is super distracting when people are on the phone in the office, which usually is only one or two"
Noise cancelling headphones
Okay, now think about that for a couple of seconds...