Controlling computers with your mind

Brain scans to detect cancer

Technology can make our lives easier. Why write a letter when you can type out an e-mail? Why write an e-mail when you can pound out a text with your thumbs on a phone? Or how about this one: why involve your arms at all when you can control computers with your mind? Sound crazy? Of course it does. But that's exactly the technology Dean Pomerlau is presently trying to develop. Dean's a researcher at Intel and his group is using software to analyze MRI brain scans to determine what a subject is thinking about. He says that they can predict the result with about 90% accuracy. While Dean cautions that having this technology in a practical application available to anyone is still many years away, it holds tremendous potential to help the disabled. Dean joins us to talk about ways this technology could be realized including the idea of swallowing a pill full of tiny robots that swim up to your brain and embed themselves there to transmit your thoughts. Really.

In our extended podcast version of the interview, Dean talks about another project he's working on: robotic telepresence. Can't make it to a meeting in Paris? That's okay, they'll have a robot there that you control, you can see and hear what it sees and hears. And that robot will be your avatar. And if there's one thing the movies have taught us it's that setting up an avatar that you control remotely is a completely simple situation in which nothing ever goes wrong.

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