Brain-computer interfaces are the stuff of sci-fi legend, used a million times to further the plot of a thousand different books. And now they’re also real, (nearly) buyable products: Thanks to Intendix you can think your PC into action.
Guger’s Intendix system is a skull-cap like electro-encephalogram sensor and accompanying electronics. You slip the cap over the head, and its myriad micro-sensitive detectors pick up the electric fields your thoughts generate. Just like those thought-sensing games that are just hitting the streets, the electronics interpret the signals coming from your head and turn it into a meaningful output. In this case Intendix translates the signals into a keyboard-like response, letting you type without moving a finger.
The system is a little more complex than just thinking “QWERTY,” as you may expect for a first-on-the-market device. You look at a screen on the connected PC, containing a letter grid with each element flashing in turn. When the letter you want is lit, you think about it, your brain generates a spike of energy and Intendix detects this and interprets it as a “type” command. It’s a little like the system Stephen Hawking uses to control his speech generator, only Stephen has limited muscle controls so doesn’t need the brain cap. And this gives away the intended use for Intendix–in medical situations, with patients suffering from locked-in syndrome, or similar disorders.
But of course this brain-computer interface, once it’s established, opens the gateway to a whole other universe of possibility–almost literally, if you take it to sci-fi like extremes. Guger have already experimented with a control interface for VR game Second Life, raising the complex concept of a medically immobilized person in real life being able to happily roam as an artificial avatar in a virtual world, as the video below demonstrates.
This is just the start though. Imagine if a third- or fourth-generation version of the Intendix (with much higher resolution EEG sensing, and cleverer algorithms) hooks up to your smartphone, and during business meetings you can think SMS’s or emails to people in the room or elsewhere–and get the responses delivered by earpiece, for example. This is a crude science-driven implementation of “psychic” powers, if you think about it. And imagine a future Intendix combined with a full-body haptic feedback suit, and tiny head-worn display tech (dare we go as futuristic as direct retinal projection systems?): The immersive gaming potential of this system would be astonishing, especially as you wouldn’t have to handle a physical controller. Virtual office environments like our digital editor suite here at Fast Company would be a wholly different experience with a thought-controlled VR interface, and think of the educational uses such a system could have. Combine the think-to-text system with something like Google’s universal translator idea and you’ve even got a globally-capable virtual worlds solution that may make fans of Neil Stephenson’s Snow Crash shiver.
Still, this is flight-of-fancy stuff, and Intendix has much more practical and wholesome uses in its immediate future. The most fascinating implementations of this tech are also probably ones we can’t dream up yet.
To hear more news like this, follow me, Kit Eaton, on Twitter… but note I’m not psychically Tweeting, yet.