London: Imagine searching the Internet
simply by thinking. Well, your imagination may soon turn into
reality, say scientists who claim to be developing a computer
which reads human minds.
A team at Intel Corporation is working on a
new technology which will directly interpret words as they
are thought, unlike current brain-controlled computers which
require users to imagine making physical movements to control
a cursor on a screen.
In fact, the scientists are creating detailed maps
of the activity in the brain for individual words which can
then be matched against the brain activity of someone using
the computer, allowing the machine to determine the word they
are thinking, `The Daily Telegraph` reported.
Preliminary tests of the system have shown that
the computer can work out words by looking at similar brain
patterns and looking for key differences that suggest what the
word might be.
Dean Pomerleau, a senior researcher at Intel
Laboratories, said that currently, the devices required to
get sufficient detail of brain activity were bulky, expensive
magnetic resonance scanners, like those used in hospitals.
"The computer uses a form of 20 questions to narrow
down what the word is. So a noun with a physical property such
as spade, which you dig with, produces activity in the motor
cortex of the brain, as this is the area that controls
"A food related word like apple, however, produces
activity in those parts of the brain related to hunger. So the
computer can infer attributes to each word being thought about
and this lets the computer zero down on what the word is
"We are currently mapping out the activity that
an average brain produces when thinking about different words.
It means you`ll be able to write letters, open emails or do
Google searches just by thinking," Pomerleau said.
Added Justin Ratner, director of Intel Laboratories
and the company`s Chief Technology Officer: "Mind reading is
the ultimate user interface. There will be concerns about
privacy with this sort of thing and we will overcome them.
"What is clear though is that humans are not
restricted any more to just using keyboards and mice."
First Published: Sunday, August 22, 2010, 23:54