Tuesday, August 2, 2011

'Brain cap' technology turns thought into motion

"Brain cap" technology being developed at the University of Maryland allows users to turn their thoughts into motion. Associate Professor of Kinesiology José 'Pepe' L. Contreras-Vidal and his team have created a non-invasive, sensor-lined cap with neural interface software that soon could be used to control computers, robotic prosthetic limbs, motorized wheelchairs and even digital avatars.
From Science Daily

The "brain cap" performs as well as implanting electrodes into the brain.  It uses EEG [electroencephalography] to non-invasively read brain waves and translate them into movement commands for computers and other devices. The brain cap has already reconstructed the complex 3D movements of the ankle, knee and hip joints during human treadmill walking.

The scientists have already started to hook this cap up to a robotic arm.  

Right  now, the scientists are thinking about using this type of technology for stroke victims or people who have lost the use of limbs through an accident or because of medical reasons.

Scientists are just starting to ponder a larger market.  They have found people can actually cut braking distances while driving by using their brain waves.  Imagine stopping your car with your brain.  Military researchers have also been doing experiments with controlling airplanes by brainwaves.

 But I believe that there are even more markets for this type of technology.  How about people who don't like to do chores?  If I could put on a brain cap and think my way around cooking, cleaning, yard work, I would be a happy camper.  I do a certain amount of thinking about this stuff anyhow.  Like, wouldn't it be nice if the rug was vacuumed.  I really don't want to pick my little self up and do it.  I'd really like to sit in my recliner and think about it and have my daily crap done for me.  I'm doing it anyhow but without a brain cap and robotic limbs to translate my EEG brain waves into motion.

I wonder how this would translate into multitasking.  I wonder if it would be possible to think my way into cleaning my house, cooking my meals, pursuing my hobbies and going to work at the same time.   I wonder if jobs would demand this kind of multitasking.  We are part of the Great Speedup right now with management demanding ever more ever faster from their workers. I mean, this brain cap could be a force multiplier for companies.

However, I could see a downside to all this.  I could see turning into a brain that lives inside a ball of fat.  Even for the worst of us, we have to do some sort of motion in our everyday life  that exercises limbs and burns calories. I mean, we are originally programmed to have some sort of organic relationship to the world.  I wonder how this would affect executive function.  Motor planning skills have some sort of over lap with the ability to organize and plan in general.  Also, how would this affect our psyches if we are living in a virtual world? There is environmental depression when you are cut off from the natural world and ecotherapy involving nature-based methods of physical and psychological healing.  Not to knock the advantages of having a brain cap but the body and mind seem to need nature.  

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