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.

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Comments on “Sorry, My Brain Accidentally Called You”

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Griff (profile) says:

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…

New Mexico Mark says:


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?


Anonymous Coward says:

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!!!

Jesse Jenkins (profile) says:

"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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