Something That Will Change Everything: Thought Controlled Interfaces

The idea that we might one day be able to control computers and other devices with our thoughts alone is one that might sound incredibly science fiction, but is in fact not that far away at all. Already there are patients with paralysis who use brain-computer interfaces in order to surf the web and regain a sense of freedom and autonomy as a result. There have also been countless studies that have given amputees (and non-amputees) mental control over bionic limbs (with enough dexterity to unwrap and eat a KitKat bar!) and lots of research has gone into the development of a game controller that would work this way.

With the technology already proven then, it’s really only a matter of time until we start seeing it used for everyday applications and available commercially. The question is, what kind of impact will it have?

Early Days

Of course there is going to be an ‘acceptance lag’ with something like thought-controlled computing, so initially it will likely see only very specific use – which will typically mean gaming and medical applications. Gaming has often been one of the areas that first sees the introduction of new technologies – the Oculus Rift, the Kinect and high-performance computers being some examples.

In fact, chances are that thought-controlled technology will be adapted to work alongside another piece of very early technology: virtual reality. The Oculus Rift is a virtual reality headset that’s not yet available commercially, but which is showing every sign of being a huge hit when it is eventually released. It’s easy to see how these two might eventually be combined – could we be able to move through virtual worlds with the power of thought alone in only a few years?

Augmented Reality

That’s one example of how an existing technology might work very logically with another existing piece of hardware. Another is how it might be combined with gadgets like Google Glass: imagine being able to control a floating interface with your thoughts alone – we’re quite a long way from being able to do this, but eventually it could essentially mean we become telepaths: able to send messages to friends by thinking it, and then see their reply floating infront of our eyes (or have it read out to us). Can’t remember the word you’re looking for? Then some future iteration of Google Glass might just be able to suggest the one you need without your even having to ask. At this point our brains would be enhanced beyond anything that has gone before and we would be able to complete a day’s work practically by just thinking about it.

Physical Control

These examples describe how we might one day use thought control to interface with software, but even more amazing might be the way we eventually use it to interface with machinery directly. The controls on a car or a plane might become very natural for the person in control, but they still provide a barrier between thinking about what you want to happen and it actually happening. Thought control would allow us to drive without even using our hands, which would make fighter pilots exponentially quicker and more agile in the air.

This could also pretty much replace physical labour. Instead of having to physically pull levers and control forklifts you could literally just use the power of thought alone.

Transhumanism

This is of course most exciting though for those people who have previously been unable to move freely. The medical applications for such technology are huge and varied and already possible – soon bionic limb replacements will be the norm.

But what happens when you make those limbs even stronger and even faster than they were before? This is an area that interests people who call themselves ‘transhumanists’ – a group who believe that we can and should use technology to enhance the natural abilities of mankind. Whether or not this ever becomes legal, you can be assured that the option will exist on the black market and that point anyone who doesn’t join in will risk becoming obsolete…

So sure, some of this might be a long way off, but other aspects are really just around the corner. Hang on tight, because the world is going to change more than you can possibly imagine in the next few decades…

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This article has been authored by John Pellet. John is an intern at Freedom Lift Systems, leading manufacturer of handicap lift systems. John is an art lover and enjoys visiting exhibitions and the theatre.

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