As part of its quarterly technology special, the Economist examines the state of brain-computer interfaces. Improvements in technology has allowed for the development of noninvasive brain-computer interfaces; headgear with sensors—as little as 14, or even 1—could tap into your brain waves. Such noninvasive BCIs could allow for increased autonomy for the paralyzed and otherwise disabled. For instance, according to the Economist, some researchers have developed a method that allows paralyzed individuals to type out messages using EEG: “The system highlights letters one by one on a grid. When the desired letter comes up an EEG headset picks up the brain activity associated with recognising it.” At just five to 10 characters per minute, that typing won’t make anyone a Mavis Beacon superstar. But it’s a start.
But wait, there’s more. The Economist also highlights an utterly frivolous use of the technology: cat ears attached to a sensor, which detects when a wearer is “concentrating” or “relaxing.” The ears will rise and fall accordingly, letting your conversation partners know when you have piqued their interest (or, as this video demonstration shows, perhaps letting a cute passer-by know you are interested). The kitsch value is obvious, but I can’t imagine why people would want to broadcast their thoughts, particularly when the science is still new; it’s hard to say whether giving someone the wrong idea or the right idea might be worse.
Read more in the Economist.