Mind-controlled prosthetics, drones and exoskeletons are all very forward-thinking, but what about a more mundane use for the technology? The BBC's "Mind Control TV" prototype hints at a future where couch potatoes need not even lift the remote. Users can open an app and select a program to watch.
The prototype has been developed by the BBC’s Digital division, which looks in part at how the organization can innovate by using new and emerging technologies. Head of business development for the division Cyrus Saihan explains that the research aims to give program makers, technologists and others an idea of how this technology might be used in the future.
Saihan says that the organization sees potential in the technology for improving accessibility, in particular for people with disabilities, and for developing a new type of user interface. Individuals suffering from locked-in syndrome, for example, could be given a better means of accessing digital and media services, whilst drivers could simply think of a particular radio station for it to come on in the car without having to take their hands off the steering wheel.
The prototype itself employs a low-cost electroencephalography (EEG) brainwave reading headset, the like of which we've featured recently with the Melomind and Muse brain-training apps. The headset measures electrical activity in the brain and allows an accompanying experimental app to use either "concentration" or "meditation" as a means of control.
The app displays a "volume bar" of concentration on-screen and allows users to carry out actions once a certain level of concentration has been reached. App users are presented with five popular BBC shows, a different one of which is highlighted every 10 seconds. When the user wants to select the highlighted program, they have 10 seconds to concentrate and trigger the program to begin playing.
The first trial run saw 10 BBC staff members try out the app, with some having more success than others. Saihan says they all got the device to work, however. Although rudimentary, the prototype system provides proof-of-concept and will inform future investigation.
The video below provides an introduction to the Mind Control TV project.