Sometimes I wonder if thought controlled computers would be a bad thing.  During a business meeting daydream would I accidentally surf porn?

Fortunately the technology doesn’t work like that yet. 

But the technology for mind controlled computers (or brain-computer interface) is coming along.  Already three products exist or will soon exist on the market: the Emotiv, the NeuroSky MindSet and the OCZ Neural Impulse Actuator.  While the last one has the least imaginative name, its the only one current only the market (at about ~$100), though the NeuroSky MindSet is promising pre-order ships by late July 2009 (for $199). 

These BCIs work by responding to neural processes in the brain that generate motor movements and cognitive processes that modify motor movements.  Basically they translate brain activity into computer signals.  Once the signals have reached the computer, then the results depend on the creativity of the developer. 

What does this mean for augmented reality?  It offers another tool in the control toolbox for hands-free manipulation.  The downside is its another peripheral that will add to the cost of a complete augmented vision system.  Assuming the Vuzix VR920 that’s coming out in the fall is around $200, an iPhone is around $200 and a reliable BCI might be $200, then a complete system would be pretty pricey at $600, not including software add-ons. 

While BCI systems may seem years down the road, these videos have convinced me mass-market use may be closer than I originally thought.

NeuroSky ABC7 Segment


Playing Unreal Tournament3 using the OCZ NIA


EPOC Emotiv Systems @ tweakfest 09


Its easy to see how simple mouse movements and clicks using a BCI could allow augmented vision systems to be hands-free.  This would keep us all from looking like we’re doing hand stretches before a Happy Hands Club meet.


Thomas K. Carpenter

Thomas K. Carpenter is a full time contemporary fantasy author with over 50 independently published titles. His bestselling, multi-series universe, The Hundred Halls, has over 25 books and counting. His stories focus on fantastic families, magical academies, and epic adventures.

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