Scientists develop tech to connect human brain to computers

Giuseppe Macri Tech Editor
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Tufts University scientists are developing revolutionary tech that will directly link the human brain with computers and enhance individuals’ abilities to do anything from recommending movies to managing air traffic control.

The key component of the bleeding-edge tech coming out of the school’s Human Computer Interaction Lab is a headband that uses functional infrared spectroscopy to scan how much light the brain is currently absorbing, which is a direct indicator of the amount of brain power being used.

Scanning the brain in this way lets computers assess whether the human brain is capable of a task, bored, or tired. In the case of an air traffic controller, the headband could read the exact time a controller’s brain becomes overworked, and automatically transfer a portion of their workload to a fellow controller.

A test of the system in a simulation by developers found that one grad student was capable of controlling four to seven aircraft at a time while the headband monitored constantly for the first sign of fatigue.

“Computers have gotten phenomenally better in the last 50 years — faster, more powerful — and humans haven’t,” computer scientist Robert Jacob told the Boston Globe. “The bottleneck is now with the human, not the computer. So it’s important to put resources into communicating better with computers.”

Jacob, along with biomedical engineer Sergio Fantini, want to include their developments in the emerging market of wearable tech like Google Glass, which they believe will eventually lead to human beings interacting with computers through thoughts and mental commands.

The tech has a similar sound to that of a Pentagon Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency development called “Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies” — a $70 million project to develop implants for humans that record and read brain signals in real-time, according to an RT report.

“We’re basic researchers — it would be delightful if these things do filter into the world, but I’d like to believe that’s not our mission,” Jacob said. “Our mission is to invent new scientific ideas and spread them, and hope they are useful to someone.”

While Jacob and Fantini have no plans to go into business with a start-up of their own, the researchers indicated they would entertain proposals from businesses interested in licensing their technology.

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