Science 3 min read

Mind-Reading Devices by Science and Facebook

Hasan Eroglu |

Hasan Eroglu |

Japanese scientists have developed a technology that recognizes numbers within someone’s mind from 0 to 9 using brain waves. In the near future, this “mind-reading” device could lead to the development of brain-activated word processing.

Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) has existed as a concept since the 1970s. BCI systems ideally ensure a communication bridge between the brain and an external device, allowing, for example, an individual to control a computer, a prosthesis, a drone or a wheelchair, without having to use muscles.

Different laboratories around the world are active in the development of these devices following various approaches.

Mind-Reading Device in Five Years

Led by Professor Tsuneo Nitta, a research group at the Toyohashi University of Technology in Japan said they had developed a system that can read “some” of a given subjects’ thoughts.

Mind-reading BCIs have now been created in Japan.Click To Tweet

According to TUT’s press release, the device uses brain waves and an electroencephalogram (EEG), to recognize and utter single-digit numbers (0-9) from a subject’s conscious with 90% accuracy. The technology also could recognize 18 types of Japanese monosyllables from brain waves with 61% accuracy, which is not so far from the 80% successful monosyllable recognition rate of humans.

Researchers said the technology would open the possibility of an EEG-activated typewriter. They aim to develop a BCI that recognizes utterances without voice to enable handicapped people to regain their ability to communicate effectively. For someone like Stephen Hawking, a future version of this device could potentially make his communication several times easier.

Within the next five years, Professor Nitta and his team plan to develop a BCI that requires fewer electrodes and that can connect to smartphones.

The research will be presented in detail next August at the Interspeech 2017 conference in Stockholm, Sweden.

Facebook’s Telepathic Typewriter

At its Developers Conference, F8, held April 18 and 19 in San Jose, CA, Facebook unveiled its plans for mind-reading systemss.

Facebook’s Building 8 2-year project aims to create a system that would allow users to type text for their AR devices directly from their brains.

To carry out this mission, B8 has assembled a multidisciplinary team of more than 60 scientists and engineers. With this system that decodes thoughts and converts them into a written message, the user would be able to type 100 words per minute, five times faster than the average person would using a smartphone.

While the utility and applications of such systems capable of converting brainwaves into words are very obvious, especially for people with communication problems, this raises huge privacy concerns.

If you are already worried about apps that collect your browsing history, mind-reading BCIs might compromise the very privacy of your thoughts, and know what you will be doing before even doing it. What would it take for you to be willing to share “your thoughts” with everybody? Would you still have a job?

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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  1. Ruben77 May 27 at 2:05 pm GMT

    Made device for reading human thoughts / human mind reading machine / Brain computer interface. In particular, I have created a perfect Speech Generating Device for people with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / ALS. Assistive technology or Augmentative and alternative communication. The discovery has not been published.

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