Is that too much to ask?
I want more direct interaction. I want to draw with my mind. I want my computer to know when I’m frustrated. I want to navigate the digital realm like I am flying effortlessly through a lucid dreamscape.
Maybe it IS a lot to ask, but advances are being made. So much so that if some amount of mind control computing isn’t common and practical in a decade, I’ll be very disappointed.
The Mindflex and Star Wars Force Trainer are good examples of a very simple implementation of this technology. The user can levitate a ball with their mind, by controlling the speed of a fan. The user puts a gizmo on their head that measures their level of concentration and transmits a corresponding signal to the fan. You could easily see how this tech could be used to move a mouse pointer up and down with the exact same mechanism. An only slightly more advanced version could move it in all directions and have left and right click as well. Let’s not forget The Mindflex and Force Trainer are sub $100 toys that are now several years old. They don’t represent anything close to the cutting edge of technology.
There have been prototypes of a system which allows a person to type with their mind, which is not an entirely new technology. However previous versions required a surgical transplant in the skull to work. Apparently one of the biggest hurdles for this kind of tech is getting signals through the skull which is very good at insulating them. Perhaps that’s a good thing so as not to leave one open to secret scans from a distance.
The thing with current versions of this tech is that it takes some practice to operate. It might be good idea to start training now since most future tech will likely someday be operated via mind interface. Nobody wants to be the dinosaur left still using a dusty old touch screen. Further development could yield the ability for this tech to adjust itself to suit your brain, making training needless. I just wouldn’t count on it. If the tech takes too long to mature, new generations will have already grown up using the mind link, so making it adaptable to stubborn brains would be much less of a priority.
I could see this this tech becoming more common in gaming before general computing. I can imagine some cool competitive gaming events in which two players sit in chairs facing one and other without moving a muscle, yet at the same time are furiously competing in a digital realm while staring each other down in the real world, each trying to psych the other player out. I for one plan to be prepared for the 2030 mind link Olympics. Training for such a thing could have fringe benefits as well. Currently society allows peoples minds to be as chaotic as they want to be, as long as their behavior is appropriate. Having to constantly interact with the world directly through ones mind could well lead to a more orderly mind that is further directed by conscious control. I don’t think most people would bemoan a boost in concentration and will power.
Of course I have wondered into the realm of wild speculation again. All I have to say about that is…”I like it here”. Back in the real world, there actually IS a commercially available general purpose mind link interface device for Mac and PC. The Emotiv EPOC is a $300 device with 14 sensors that can be used to control some programs, navigate 3d games, generate music, and probably a whole lot more. Not only that, it can tell when you are entertained, agitated, or bored, and also monitor your facial expressions. As I understand it, the thing isn’t yet set up for mouse control, but that is a planned future feature. There is also an open SDK for 3rd party software development, which seems even more exciting to me than Microsoft Connect development.
In fact I didn’t even know about this product until writing this post, and I am super freaking excited about it. I don’t know how I could have missed it. It seems to have much more potential than simpler competing products with only 2 and 4 sensors. I just hope someone has or soon will develop a drawing program for it. I hear it does take substantial training to master this device, but I am psyched to try. If only I weren’t so broke I would buy it right now. No believe it or not, this is not a promo.