For generations, people have dreamed of communicating with their thoughts. Now, thanks to the first commercial device that successfully reads brainwaves and converts them into speech, telepathy is becoming a reality.
“We’re still short of the idea of being able to read someone’s mind, but theoretically that’s possible,” says Vincent Chang, who has worked with scientists at Stanford University and a range of neuroscience companies to commercialize the technology. It works by scanning brain activity to enable a smartphone to speak or write words.
The implications are enormous – first for anyone suffering from a disease that has robbed them of the ability to speak; but other industries outside of health, from the military to the media, are eyeing the breakthrough with excitement. You can also control a phone, gadget, or even a drone – just by thinking about it.
Sadly, one of the giants of the scientific world, physicist Stephen Hawking, who extensively trialed the fledgling technology some years ago, is no longer with us to witness the iBrain’s emergence.
A poignant article in Time Magazine in 2012 related the story of how Hawking, who suffered from debilitating motor neuron disease, worked with sleep pioneer Philip Low to test early versions of the device.
But there’s a dark side to knowing what you’re thinking. Neuromarketers are analyzing our thoughts and responses to various advertising images and messages, to find the ‘best’ designs and product promises; best for the brand, but not always for the consumer.
And mentalist apps, that measure your involuntary responses to subtle stimuli, are more than a party trick – hackers can use them to deduce your secret codes and passwords!