It’s often been said that we humans only use 10% of our potential brain matter. Somedays I think that estimate is a tad high. During the development of the concept of my novel I wondered about the control systems for an imbedded computer one sees through screens on the eyes. Hand signals or typing seemed so outdated, but I couldn’t come up with a logical system that would be easy to carry. I’ve watched plenty of Discovery programs showing how the mind can be observed in action using big expensive imagers, but I couldn’t fathom how they could be reduced small enough to be portable. Without a solution, I just decided to wave my writer hands at it, and say that it could be done.
My surprise as I was reading the October 2008 issue of PCGamer was intense when I found the very technology I had hand waved away earlier in the year within its colorful pages. The OCZ Neural Impulse Actuator description put me in a zombie-like state as I wandered to my wife to shove the magazine in her face. She was not impressed by the implications, but after I explained all the possibilities (and that I had only imagined such a device six months before), she started to see my way. She still thinks I’m a little crazy, but that’s a different story.
Though I’m an avid gamer, and the review appeared in a gaming magazine, the possibilities the device offered had nothing to do with gaming. Crude with its intentions, the device, or subsequent iterations, could be configured to control more than a mouse. Computers to be controlled with the mind? Could you create ‘thought patterns’ that could be translated into words? Words could be transferred across the Internet to other users to form crude mindspeak. Could you control other devices with it? I had more ideas than I could shake a stick at, and I have a pretty big idea stick.
When I was young, one of my best friends, Bill, had a brain tumor that reduced him to a quadriplegic. He passed away five years ago, but would his life have had more meaning if he had been able to control his wheelchair easier? Or been able to surf the web while he lay in bed? I think of the book The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. A man with shut-in syndrome could be given a new life (albeit much reduced, but improvement is improvement) using systems like this. I found I was not far off the mark when I heard an NPR program about the subject.
I’ve haven’t yet ponied up the $169.99 to purchase the device to play with it (it is a recession and all), but I have been tempted on more than one occasion. So for now, I’ll dream of other uses for it and keep an eye out for a mindspeak device that allows me to tell my wife the dog needs to be let out from my writer’s desk. I’ll have to get up and let the dog out myself, but at least I’ll have the satisfaction of having told her with my mind.