Guys, I think I've seen the future.
In my four-part story Kill Code, Dr. Croy invents an earpiece that allows a user to telepathically send commands to a computer. Well, here we are, a year after its writing, that prediction seems to be coming true.
At a company called CTRL-Labs, they're creating a wristband outfitted with an array of electrodes that reads neuron activity in the arm. By processing this data from the neurons, the CTRL-kit (as the band is called) can essentially translate thoughts into actions on a computer screen. Beginning at 9:33, the video below shows a demo of how this technology works:
How does it work? In short, the electrodes in the CTRL-kit pick up the signals your brain sends to the neurons in your arm and translates those signals into movements, say wiggling the finger on a digital hand or moving the cursor. Interestingly, using this method, the wristband can execute commands based on intention (i.e., when you think about moving your arm but actually don’t), not just when you move your hand.
This method of reading nerve signals is called EMG (electromyography). Another popular method of reading brain signals is EEG (electroencephalography), which captures nervous system activity at the source, the brain.
However, in terms of performing specific actions, EMG is superior to EEG in one major respect. EEG is, in essence, a measure of the subject’s concentration (i.e., concentrating harder generates a certain response), while EMG is a more “streamlined” set of nervous signals. This allows for more precise control of computer actions.
As such, CTRL-Labs’ CEO Thomas Reardon sees EMG-based computer interfacing as much more feasible than fabled “brain implants” that some companies have begun pursuing. Not only would such implants have to sort the enormous amounts of “data,” as it were, coming from the brain, but they would require surgery and degrade rapidly.
As with any emerging tech, though, the CTRL-kit is not quite ready for mass consumption. Neurotechnologist Chad Bouton asserts that one major problem companies seeking to use EMG face is compensating for unintentional movements and vibrations from the environment around the user. In addition, the CTRL-kit seems only capable of a limited set of tasks, like moving a cursor around. Unfortunately, you won’t be typing your next dissertation using this wristband.
Nonetheless, the applications for this technology are broad, including as a replacement for current virtual reality tracking setups, which primarily use cameras.
Though the CTRL-kit still has a ways to go, Dr. Croy would be proud, I’m sure--of course, as long as there isn’t an anarchist group seeking to use it to overthrow the government.
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I'm a sci-fi/fantasy lover & writer who especially likes talking about Star Wars and futuristic tech. I like finding new things & finding the beauty in old things, especially in my "Everyday Snippets" series. I hope you'll join me on my blog and unleash your imagination!