I think, therefore I choose: How brain control will change how we do everything

brainwaves brain control brain scanning p300 eegA few years ago, I wrote a very short story called Aha! (You Are a Cheating Spouse). In it, a cheating husband gets caught when his wife employs a “toy” headset to detect the P300 response in his brain to a photo of the woman with whom he was having an affair. His involuntary brain response proved that he knew the woman.

The story is fictional, but the P300 response is real. It’s your brain’s response to certain stimuli, and it’s automatic. Researchers use P300 to allow “locked in” patients — who have lost control of their bodies — to use a brain-computer interface (BCI) to type.

For example, patients watch a scrolling list of letters and numbers, and when they see the one they want, their brain has an “aha!” response that the BCI detects, and thus the BCI selects the right letter for the person.

Today, BCIs are pretty dorky; they have more wires than you can count, and require grease on your head to ensure a good signal. Emotiv and NeuroSky are cooler consumer-oriented devices, but they don’t seem to work as well as the dorky options. Still, BCIs are just sensors for you brain, and as I’ve previously written, sensors are going to proliferate everywhere.

In the early days of personal computers, many people wondered what anyone could possibly do with a computer at home. You might be wondering the same thing right now about putting a BCI on your head.

A few brain waves go a long way

To really simplify matters, to be effective a BCI needs to be able to notice a change in your brain’s activity. It doesn’t have to read your mind. It can ignore 99.9999 percent of what happens in your brain, as long as it accurately reacts to a few key changes.

There are numerous situations in which your brain generates a recognizable change in activity. To name a few, when you:

• realize you have made a mistake

• recognize a face or object

• become bored

Let’s start with a few possible applications, which represent a tiny portion of the entrepreneurial opportunities.

I type pretty fast with three fingers, and there are many occasions on which I hit the wrong key. When this happens, my brain sort of goes “oops.” Imagine if your keyboard could know exactly when you thought “oops.” It could highlight the letter you just typed, and then can show you some likely replacements. When you see the right letter, you could think, “That’s it.”

Congratulations. You just corrected a typo with your thoughts.

neurosky brain scanner mind controlThe tactic of error detection has some interesting possibilities. Imagine that football teams put sensors inside players’ helmets that record each “oops” moment and synchronizes it to video footage of the game. An athlete and his coach could then review the “high” lights of these events, rather than a tedious replay of the whole game.

Hands-free control

A person wearing a BCI could use his or her brain to select the right answer from several possible choices. This would be especially useful in situations when it is difficult to use your hands, such as driving your car.

Here are some questions – posed by a software program – you could answer like this:

“Would you prefer the heat to be higher, lower, or off?

“Do you want to call your wife at work or on her cell?

“Would you like to listen to Pandora or NPR?”

Total and complete privacy

A BCI is the only device I can name with the potential to offer total privacy to its user.

You could sit across from a person at a table, answer questions from your BCI like I just described, and the other person might have no idea. You could remain motionless and silent, but your instructions could put actions in motion far outside the room in which you are sitting.

With (a little) practice, you could learn to activate your BCI at will. If you are having coffee with a good friend who is going on and on, you could cancel your next appointment without interrupting your friend, or even revealing that any such conflict exists.

As BCIs become more integrated with existing databases and technologies, you will enjoy a growing ability to access information without others being aware that you are doing so.

Learning made easier

neurosky headset classroom brain control learningHuge amounts of capital are pouring into online learning, and this creates an opportunity to do things at home (wear a BCI) that students probably wouldn’t do in a classroom. You don’t learn much when a lesson gets too easy or too difficult. Bored students start to daydream. Overwhelmed students get completely lost.

But a BCI could indicate how engaged you are. Combine this type of feedback with any sort of individualized teaching approach, and you end up with better learning.

When your attention wavers, an online course could try another approach. If the new approach doesn’t work, it would try another until you get back in the ideal zone. If this never happens, it could ask your parent, colleague or educator to intervene.

Since 2008, I’ve managed a Brain-Computer Interface group on LinkedIn, and many of the top researchers in the world participate. But most are mainly focused on the science; few are interested in exploiting the commercial possibilities. This area is filled with entrepreneurial opportunities, and probably worthy of your attention.

Bruce Kasanoff is a speaker, author and innovation strategist who tracks sensor-driven innovation at Sense of the Future. Kasanoff and co-author Michael Hinshaw teamed up to explore more of the opportunities unearthed by disruptive forces in Smart Customers, Stupid Companies.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Emerging Tech

This drone with hands looks like a nightmare straight out of Black Mirror

This unlikely drone-with-hands creation is the work of Federico Ciccarese, the brains behind YouBionic, a bionic hand project that has evolved far beyond its original brief. Check it out.
Emerging Tech

This crazy-looking robot uses microspines on its legs to climb up walls

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon have built a bioinspired robot, which uses microspines on its feet to grip onto rough surfaces. This allows it to climb up very steep gradients. Check it out.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Florida’s autonomous vehicle law, E3 updates, and more

On this episode of DT Live, we take a look at the biggest trending stories in tech, including Florida allowing fully autonomous vehicles on the road, Atari’s new gaming system, E3 updates, high-speed rail, and more.
Emerging Tech

Got $400 million to burn? The world’s largest airplane is up for sale

Stratolaunch, the world's largest airplane, is up for sale. All it'll cost you is $400 million dollars. The brainchild of late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the plane was supposed to make space travel more accessible and affordable.
Emerging Tech

Ex astris, scientia: Star Trek logo spotted on the surface of Mars

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been boldly going to Mars and capturing images since 2005, and now it has spotted something where no man has gone before: a structure on the planet's surface which will look familiar to Trekkies.
Emerging Tech

Adobe develops tool to identify Photoshopped images of faces

With deepfake videos making headlines, and campaigns against the Photoshopping of models, people are more aware than ever of the digital manipulation of images. Now Adobe wants to give tools to users to let them spot faked images.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Plant-based shoes and a ukulele learning aid

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover will pave the way for manned missions to Mars

Survival on Mars is a massive challenge for humanity. To cope with the highly variable temperatures, lack of oxygen and water, and high levels of radiation, the Mars 2020 rover will carry instruments to pave the way for human exploration.
Emerging Tech

Facebook builds virtual homes to train A.I. agents in realistic environments

Researchers at Facebook have created Habitat, which is a platform that enables rapid training for A.I. agents. They will receive thousands of hours of training in just a few minutes in the virtual homes.
Emerging Tech

Impossible Foods struggles to keep up with Impossible Burger demand

Red Robin and White Castle have reported Impossible Burger shortages, as it appears that Impossible Foods is struggling to keep up with demand. The company will be selling its meat-like patties in retail outlets within the year.
Emerging Tech

Pass the salt please: Table salt found on Jupiter’s moon Europa

Astronomers have spotted something unexpectedly familiar on the surface of Jupiter's moon Europa -- sodium chloride, better known as table salt. This suggests the under-ice oceans on Europa are salty and similar to our oceans on Earth.
Emerging Tech

Hubble captures explosive galaxy, the site of three recent supernovae

Hubble's latest image is of the spiral galaxy NGC 4051 which is notable for having played host to a large number of supernovae: the first seen in 1983 (SN 1983I), the second in 2003 (SN 2003ie), and the most recent in 2010 (SN 2010br).
Emerging Tech

The grainy texture of Saturn’s rings reveals clues to their origins

New analysis of data from Cassini shows that Saturn's rings are not smooth, but rather are grainy in texture. Scientists believe that tiny moons within the rings cause materials to cluster and form clumps and straw-like patterns.
Emerging Tech

The Very Large Telescope gets upgrade to aid its hunt for habitable exoplanets

The Very Large Telescope is growing even bigger. The latest addition to the telescope's suite of instruments is a tool called NEAR (Near Earths in the AlphaCen Region) which will hunt for exoplanets in the nearby Alpha Centauri star…