Technology has a way of proving soothsayers wrong. First, it was the touch that revolutionised the market, and now it’s voice that is driving people to an automated world.
Technology has a way of proving soothsayers wrong. First, it was the touch that revolutionised the market, and now it’s voice that is driving people to an automated world. But for those prophesying voice to be the next big thing may be proven wrong yet again, as scientists have been successful in transforming the unsaid into computer commands.
Basically, over the years, there have been attempts to generate computer commands using brain waves, and computers are getting pretty good at it. First, it was basic functions, on computers, that scientists were able to accomplish, but last year University of Florida held the world’s first brain-controlled drone race, involving pilots using willpower to drive drones.
But that is not all, last week scientists from Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) announced that they have devised a mechanism whereby they will be able to remote control movement of turtles using human thought. Turtles have an instinctive behaviour to move towards light, and in this instance, a brain-computer interface (BCI) can translate commands into EEG signals, which can move them in the direction you want.
If that sounds bizzare, Elon Musk launched Neuralink, a venture to merge human brain with artificial intelligence, to keep humans in a race with artificial beings. The venture, if developed, would be able to plant a chip in the brain to enhance its capabilities, and with concerns that scientists may be able to create more advanced AIs, which can reason and think faster than humans, Musk believes this would give them added advantage to their robot counterparts.
So, is it time to junk that smartwatch? Probably, not. Although all this technology may sound fascinating, it’s still a few years away, and the most important thing, it may not be as acceptable as one would expect. Take the case of Google Glass, even though revolutionary, given that it gave people spy-like capabilities to see people profiles and interact with augmented reality, people wearing them got characterised as “Glassholes.” Imagine a Professor X kind of device over your head to control computers.
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But that is not to say we won’t be using this technology in the near future. Given that voice had constraints—it cannot be used in crowded space—brain waves have no such restrictions. The field can have application in medical science, where it can be used to give artificial limbs to the paralysed or operate wheelchairs. Both these technologies are already very much operational. But can BCI’s dominate the atmosphere, with companies already tracking what you read and see, giving a glimpse of what you think may be a bit far out even for the technologically advanced and, probably, too Orwellian for some. Those who have no compunction about these, would not mind it.
As for the turtle, many would remember the game where you would type in a command to move a turtle on the screen—now is no different, just that you are thinking that command and this time there is a real turtle following it.