The next frontier for the technology industry is able to control the brain waves and in particular for, among others, to help the disabled.
In electronics show CES, several companies displayed innovations in this sector, where unite engineers, computer scientists and experts in biomedicine.
The sapling BrainCo based in Boston, presented his headband “Mind Control”, which captures the brain waves to improve powers of concentration and detection of possible diseases or even to get some control home automation functions or prostheses .
This device “turns brain waves into electronic signals,” said the leader of BrainCo, Zenchuan Lei. At CES, he demonstrated how a person with this band could operate an artificial hand.
But “you can also turn on or off the light concentrating on this task,” he says.
Designed by Harvard University and engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the camera uses the “neurological feedback.” It should be on sale this year for less than $ 150 (140 euros).
But it can also help victims of concentration problems, says Zenchuan Lei, forcing them to mobilize their thoughts.
A similar product is presented by OpenBCI, a New York company that intends to create a common platform for sectors like health and education. It uses a three-dimensional printed helmet that captures brainwaves.
“This can help people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (or Lou Gehrig’s disease) and quadriplegics to communicate,” the CEO of OpenBCI, Conor Russomanno.
But it also has commercial aspects like the ability to test the reactions to new products and services.
The young South Korean pushes Looxid unveiled headphones that detect both brain waves and eye movements and states that this brings an even more accurate reading of individual thoughts.
“No other device combines these two functions,” says operations manager of Looxid, Alex Chang. By connecting the headphones to a computer, “you can activate the mouse, rolling his eyes and press a key, blinking them,” he promises.
This device will be launched in July, and subsequent developments could allow its use for the control of objects both physical and virtual, communication and analysis of health status and psychological of the user, even electronic identification purposes. “It may also be used for games because you can control things with your eyes,” said Alex Chang.
“We can show someone an advertisement and see where the eyes are located. We can analyze the emotions and see how that person reacts,” he adds, referring to the uses of the invention for marketing purposes.
Other exhibitors presented products attached to the person (wearables), which can limit the spread of pain signals to the brain, allowing some patients to avoid having to resort to painkillers to unwanted side effects.
The technique of “neuro-feedback” is also used by the Canadian company InteraXon, which offers a headband called “Muse”. With sensors on the forehead and behind the ears to measure brain waves, it can be used to improve the meditation techniques. “It’s like going to the gym. The muscle will not grow if you do not work regularly and it is the same for the brain,” says one of the leaders of Muse, Tracy Rosenthal-Newsom.
Another seedling, Nervana, based in Florida, has shown at CES technology to develop the cerebral pleasure brought by music by triggering the distribution of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. “We are sending a signal through the vagus nerve that produces dopamine and it relaxes you,” said her boss, Ami Brannon, claiming that some people describe a euphoric sensation.
“But it is not to control the brain,” she says. “We access to the central nervous system and it stimulates the nerve to induce the brain to produce dopamine,” she says, adding: “People who do yoga or meditation can already do it.”