Monday, October 12, 2009

The Future of The Internet: Mind to Mind Communication?

by: Dave Altavilla

Not long ago we gave you a look at a product manufactured by OCZ that made use of brainwaves as a futuristic but in-the-here-and-now game controller. Dubbed the NIA, for Neural Impulse Actuator, instead of buttons and joysticks, this device gave user the ability to control in-game movement with their mind. At the time, it sounded almost a little crazy but it worked, at least in novel sort of way, perhaps for some freaky party fun. In reality, for us, the product was more of an under-pinning that if mankind can dream it up, for the most part anything can be built. Today's science fiction is tomorrow's reality, as they say.

And so say the rather brainy folks at the University of Southampton as well. They've taken the concept of brain power technology and applied it to communication - as in brain-to-brain direct. Talk about low latency. Well actually there is some latency involved, at least for now. Southampton University's Dr. Christopher James (Yes, he's so dang smart he's one of those double first name guys...) has successfully demonstrated a direct person to person transmission of information without the use of any interface device but instead with an EEG (Electroencephalography or electricity across the scalp) amplifier and some signaling, in binary believe it or not, between the individuals involved in the experiment. The prof of concept Dr. James put forth, has some striking similarities to the OCZ NIA product in that it uses EEG waves as well, however instead of a controller system, the folks of Southampton U experiment applied a communication medium to the equation.

Their report goes on to offer: "While attached to an EEG amplifier, the first person would generate and transmit a series of binary digits, imagining moving their left arm for zero and their right arm for one. The second person was also attached to an EEG amplifier and their PC would pick up the stream of binary digits and flash an LED lamp at two different frequencies, one for zero and the other one for one. The pattern of the flashing LEDS is too subtle to be picked by the second person, but it is picked up by electrodes measuring the visual cortex of the recipient... The encoded information is then extracted from the brain activity of the second user and the PC can decipher whether a zero or a one was transmitted. This shows true brain-to-brain activity."

Here's a video demo of the experiment in action...

Dubbed BCI or Brain Computer Interface, the interface allows for B2B, or brain to brain communication, over the internet. We think the good folks at Southampton U should get together with the team at OCZ and work on productizing something. It might not be ready for prime time yet though. At this point the setup is only able to communicate one digit every three to four seconds. Hey, you've got to start somewhere. Remember that 14.4K modem?

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