dreaded brain chip for controlling computers and mobile devices may be closer than even he suspected.Our own Marshall Kirkpatrick's
Intel researchers in Pittsburgh told journalists today that brain implants are harnessing human brain waves to surf the Internet, manipulate documents, and much more. And just as we told you two years ago, the lucky recipients of these implants will be willing volunteers, not government-controlled guinea pigs. Some of us are now researching cheap flights to Pittsburgh.
Just think of how far we've come since the early days of portable tech. "If you told people 20 years ago that they would be carrying computers all the time," said Intel research VP Andrew Chien, "they would have said, 'I don't want that. I don't need that.' Now you can't get them to stop."
Indeed, mobility, transparency, and accessibility are all the terms of the hour; and their advocates are popular laureates. The forefront of the user interface has revolved around concepts such as intuition, organics, and biology.
Gesture technology is removing one barrier that lies between human-to-machine communication; think about that the next time you twirl your iPhone around like an Etch-A-Sketch. Isn't removing the need for physical contact the next rational step? Chien tells us that, although there are many challenges yet to solve, the day of brain-controlled computing isn't so far off.
Dean Pomerleau works for Intel on matters of cognitive neuroscience, machine learning, computer vision, robotics, man-machine interfaces, brain processing of semantic information, and various brain-scanning technologies, such as fMRI, MEG, EEG and ECoG. He and his cohorts are solving the mechanisms of brain waves.
While there's no doubt the use cases are fascinating, Pomerleau also brushes off user concerns about implants, saying, "Eventually people may be willing to be more committed... to brain implants. Imagine being able to surf the Web with the power of your thoughts."
This is the precise line of thinking that Kirkpatrick debates so heatedly - perhaps as much now as he did in his editorial almost two years ago.
Have concerns around user privacy abated since then? Hardly, with Facebook and location-based-tech developers struggling to maintain balance for their users and constant struggles and inquisitions over corporate storage of user data. Has the issue of information overload lessened? If it had, would so many startups be staking their claim on the issue of firehose filtration? And is mobile tech obsolete enough to require even more portable access to the apps we love and - dare I say it? - need?
Are end users ready for brain implants? You tell us.