03. 08. 2006
Brain-to-computer interface at CeBIT
CES is the big consumer tech conference in the US, but CeBIT, which opens today in Hanover, Germany, is the biggest in the world, with 6000 exhibitors, more than double the count at CES. While CES becomes a bigger and bigger circus each year, with exhibits nearly indistinguishable from the ones put on by the porn industry show which shares the venue during the same week in January, there is very little innovation on display in recent years, just a lot of marketing of old products by the same big guns. While we did see some interesting gizmos on display by tiny, unknown Asian companies, there was absolutely nothing from the academic world, where research is taking place that will fuel gadgets years down the line.
CeBIT is mainly a consumer products show but will also showcase projects like the "mental typewriter," a brain to computer interface which translates thoughts into cursor movements on a computer screen. The user has 128 electrodes placed on their scalp, and the EEG-like signals are decoded by a software program to identify specific information, like the choosing of letters in order to compose words and sentences. The neural analysis is time-consuming (a typical sentence would take 5 to 10 minutes to write) and the electrodes themselves take an hour to apply, but eventually researchers hope to make it possible for people with severe disabilities such as extensive paralysis, to communicate through computers.
I'm not going to Germany (next year, I hope) but I'll be keeping an eye out for the things I'd hoped to see at CES.