Can you pour a beer with your mind? You can – if you wear a headband straight out of Star Trek. Could you use your eyes to scroll through a website on your tablet? You can - if your tablet has a camera and an infrared LED. As technology gets better and better at reading our bodies’ signals, we may not have to use a keyboard – or even touch our computers – to use gadgets in our daily lives.
A couple months ago, Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart strapped some wires to his head and showed us how his drumming affected his brainwaves. Yesterday, I saw a long parade of CES attendees slip a thin white headband on and watch their own brainwaves pop up on a screen. Mickey had a little advanced help, but this is a headband you might be able to buy at your local Best Buy in the next few months.
Early last decade, University of Toronto engineer Steve Mann developed a way to turn your brainwaves into binary code – something readable by any computer. Since 2007, Interaxonhas been working on ways to turn that into something you and I can use at home. This spring, you’ll be able to buy the Muse headband for the low, low price of $175. It comes with games designed to help you train your brain to focus, to stress less, and to remember better.
What else can it do? Well, right now, you can only pour a beer with your mind if you’re lucky enough to be in Vegas, but Muse hopes that soon you’ll be able to use it to control all sorts of everyday objects, as more and more objects have Internet connectivity built in. If I think hard enough (and wear Muse’s headband) I could ask my Internet-enabled fridge whether I’m out of orange juice, or I could ask my TV to bring up new episodes of Downton Abbey. Your imagination is the limit – quite literally.
A month ago, IBM released a set of predictions about what they refer to as “Cognitive Systems” – or in other words, how machines will soon be able to simulate touch, “smell” us to warn us if we’re getting the flu, augment our hearing, and use everything they sense about us to let us better control the world around us. “Technology will be about the senses in five years,” IBM says. At the Consumer Electronics Show, we’re already seeing it in reality.