Sorry, My Brain Accidentally Called You

from the and-you-thought-pocket-dialing-was-a-problem? dept

If you thought that accidental "pocket dialing" by your phone was a problem, just wait until everyone's hooked up to allow their brain to directly dial a phone. For years we've been hearing about various experiments with thought-controlled computers, and the latest is an experiment with the ability to dial phones using your brain. The focus is on helping severely disabled people use a phone, but there are obviously plenty of applications for everyone else as well:
For example, it could create the ultimate hands-free experience for cell-phone users, or be used to detect when drivers or air-traffic controllers are getting drowsy by sensing lapses in concentration.
Not surprisingly, it takes some practice, and some people are better at it than others. In fact, the main researcher behind this notes that he can only reach 85% accuracy, while others were able to get to practically 100% accuracy.

There have been other, similar, experiments that we've heard about in the past, so it's not clear how different this particular experiment is compared to some others. However, the article does quote one researcher who says that he's not convinced this methodology really works with mobile phones, because it involves showing numbers on a screen, with each number flashing at a slightly different frequency. It's that flashing frequency that triggers the brain sensor to dial the right number. But... those flashing numbers and frequency inputs really only work off of a large screen, rather than a small mobile phone screen.

That said, if we ever really do reach the point where we have working retinal displays, you could certainly see how this might work, where you'd flash up the number pad on your eyeball, and then be able to dial directly with your brain. I'd sign up for that.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Rose M. Welch (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 12:30am

    It's a BrainPal!

     

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    Richard (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 1:35am

    Ever tried it

    Ever tried one of these "thought control" interfaces?

    Well I have - and I can report that so far they really really really don't work.

     

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    Griff (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 1:44am

    The ultimate hands free ?

    Sounds to me like a guaranteed car crash - far more distracting than dial by voice.

    99% of the application of this will be for severely disabled.

    There have been many false dawns in the drive to get rid of keyboards and keypads and they have survived because they work fairly well, and they are totally unambiguous.

    For example people would rather use tiny keyboards than near perfect handwriting recognition with a stylus. Why ?

    But I see the DHS rubbing their hands in glee at the polygraph implications...

     

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      Rabbit80, Apr 13th, 2011 @ 4:16am

      Re: The ultimate hands free ?

      "For example people would rather use tiny keyboards than near perfect handwriting recognition with a stylus. Why ?"

      Because that "near perfect" handwriting recognition requires that I learn to write differently and only works properly 80% of the time!

       

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      Richard (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 4:30am

      Re: The ultimate hands free ?

      Sounds to me like a guaranteed car crash ......

      99% of the application of this will be for severely disabled.


      Before or after??

       

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    Blatant Coward (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 2:03am

    867-5309. That is all.

     

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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Apr 13th, 2011 @ 2:05am

    Interesting

    What would that mean in terms of concentration is dinner ready yet no if you were to be distracted by random thoughts what's that noise would you be able to exert proper control of things with coherent thoughts mmm, Sabrina in the bath?

    Sent from my brain.

     

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    Robert Ring (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 5:27am

    Oh no. Does this mean we have to start memorizing people's phone numbers again?

     

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    New Mexico Mark, Apr 13th, 2011 @ 6:28am

    Maybe...

    Yeah. I would think that images flashing at different frequencies would just about drive me crazy, but I haven't tried it.

    Some food for thought... Assume most people have fewer than 1000 contacts they normally call, what if a heads-up display showed choices in groups of nine (twelve are shown on the demo)?

    Grouping by categories and sub-categories, it should be possible to pick any one person within four displays. (This assumes showing images like group names or icons rather than numbers, then showing pictures of individuals or maybe company logos at the "dial this one" level.) If one of the top-level groups is "people I call a lot" and that sub-group was ranked by frequency, I think most calls could initiated within a couple of picks.

    And a ninja headband would look so cool...

    Then again, that's a pretty roundabout way of doing something simple like dialing a phone. If someone has enough ability to talk on the phone, better voice control software seems like a more straightforward solution.

    But, if you could transmit your *thoughts* via phone... hmmmm... what's my Congressman's phone number?

    NMM

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 13th, 2011 @ 6:32am

    We were discussing that at work the other day....

    There is just no good way for any of those apps to be able to hook up to a brain with any real success. It would be very tricky to be able to filter what exactly the task is at the time.

    For example, in the sentence above, I was going to type "filter garbage" and I backed out of that deciding to reword the end of the sentence. From the moment I hit backspace on 'garbage', I grabbed my dew, tipped it and my head up to drink the last bit of it, thinking that I don't have any more cold ones in the fridge, and I prolly need to put some in, when my eyes hit the mini statue of the US Capitol at the top of the desk, and then I think "We really need to take a trip since we didn't go on spring break this year", and I focus back to the screen. I stare blankly at the screen, just rereading the sentence, before I decide to just remove 'garbage' and continue...

    However, based on the above, I probably should have left 'garbage' in.....

    I digress....

    If we haven't gotten voice or handwriting recognition perfected, how in the world would one filter (itches my ear) the brain to determine exactly what (oh is that my youngest kid coming up the stairs) the task is at the time (rests elbow on desk and hand on cheek, hey, why does my skin feel so soft today)?

    Oh snap....I gotta get ready for work!!!

     

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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 7:01am

    Uh oh

    If I get this installed, I am going to feel very sorry for Natalie Portman if I learn her personal phone number. Or Jessical Biel, or ...

     

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    Gwiz (profile), Apr 13th, 2011 @ 8:17am

    What if someone is talking to you while you are trying to "thought dial", would it end up like the old Abbott and Costello routine where Bud is counting money?

     

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    Jesse Jenkins, Apr 13th, 2011 @ 10:50am

    "My Stroke of Insight"

    In Jill Bolte-Taylor's autobiographical book "My Stroke of Insight", the author recalls the morning she had a stroke. She sat next to a phone for a long time, knowing she needed to use it, to get help, but couldn't remember HOW to use it.
    Based on that episode, I have to agree that this solution might work for SOME disabilities, but the number appears to be dwindling . . .

     

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    Gene Cavanaugh, Apr 14th, 2011 @ 7:53pm

    Dialing by brain

    BUT it requires you HAVE a brain, or at least, be able to use it.

    It is not clear that is a common thing.

     

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