• Germany's news in English

Mind-reading computers turn heads at CeBIT

AFP · 4 Mar 2010, 16:24

Published: 04 Mar 2010 16:24 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Huge crowds at the world's biggest technology trade fair gathered round a man sitting at a pinball table, wearing a cap covered in electrodes attached to his head, who controlled the flippers with great proficiency without using hands.

"He thinks: left-hand or right-hand and the electrodes monitor the brain waves associated with that thought, send the information to a computer, which then moves the flippers," said Michael Tangermann, from the Berlin Brain Computer Interface.

But the technology is much more than a fun gadget, it could one day save your life. Scientists are researching ways to monitor motorists' brain waves to improve reaction times in a crash.

In an emergency stop situation, the brain activity kicks in on average around 200 milliseconds before even an alert driver can hit the brake. There is no question of braking automatically for a driver - "we would never take away that kind of control," said Tangermann.

"However, there are various things the car can do in that crucial time, tighten the seat belt, for example," he added.

Using this brain-wave monitoring technology, a car can also tell whether the driver is drowsy or not, potentially warning him or her to take a break.

At the g.tec stall, visitors watched a man with a similar "electrode cap" sat in front of a screen with a large keyboard, with the letters flashing in an ordered sequence.

The user concentrates hard when the chosen letter flashes and the brain waves stimulated at this exact moment are registered by the computer and the letter appears on the screen.

The technology takes a long time at present - it took the man around four minutes to write a five-lettered word - but researchers hope to speed it up in the near future.

Another device allows users to control robots by brain power. The small box has lights flashing at different frequencies at the four points of the compass.

The user concentrates on the corresponding light, depending on whether he wants the robot to move up, down, left or right and the brainwaves generated by viewing that frequency are monitored and the robot is controlled.

Story continues below…

The technology is being perfected for physically disabled people, who can communicate and operate other devices using their brain.

"In future, people will be able to control wheelchairs, open doors and turn on their televisions with their minds," said Clemens Holzner from g.tec.

The CeBIT runs until Saturday.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

17:03 March 4, 2010 by xyz_79
03:16 March 5, 2010 by Fredfeldman
It won't be too long before technicians will be able to read your mind too. Perhaps only crudely in the beginning but that capability is on its way. In the brave new world folks who value their privacy will perhaps be shopping for helmets lined in lead.
06:00 March 5, 2010 by Derek Quinton
It is now believed that people in a comer brain is still active, could this be used to help them Communicate. DQ
10:10 March 5, 2010 by Talonx
Fredfeldman, actually mind reading is probably years away. Sure enough there are alot of similarities from brain to brain, but pretty much everybody stores their information differently. Currently, we can only really 'read' someones mind after we've scanned them over and over again, while they look at what we want to decipher later, and then it is only there mind that we can read. The most we'll be able to do across subjects is use this stuff as glorified lie detecters which aren't any better than normal lie detecters. There is some stuff attempting to decipher primary visual cortex across subjects, but this sort of VI information isn't even consciously available information and says nothing about the person.

Derek Quinton, not all people and not all types of coma (most coma's are transient anyways). But yes, people with locked-in syndrome for instance could use this to communicate.
Today's headlines
German police carry out nationwide anti-terror raids
Police outside a building in Jena during raids on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Police forces in five German states carried out raids on Tuesday morning with the aim of tackling the financing of terror groups, police in Thuringia have reported.

The Local List
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Photo: DPA

So you've mastered German, but now it's time to learn English all over again.

Iconic German church being eroded away by human urine
Ulm Minster towering over the rest Ulm surrounding the Danube. Photo: Pixabay

It will now cost you €100 to spend a penny. That’s if you get caught choosing to pee against the world-famous Ulm Minster.

German small arms ammo exports grow ten-fold
Photo: DPA

The government has come in for criticism after new figures revealed that Germany exported ten times the quantity of small arms ammunition in the first half of 2016 as in the same period last year.

14-year-old stabs 'creepy clown' in prank gone wrong
File photo: DPA.

A 16-year-old in Berlin decided he wanted to scare some friends, but his plot backfired in a violent way.

Four Ku Klux Klan groups active in Germany, says govt
An American member of the KKK at a gathering in Georgia. Photo: EPA.

The German government estimates that there are four Ku Klux Klan (KKK) groups currently active in the country, according to a report by the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) on Tuesday.

Ex-chancellor Schröder to mediate in supermarket row
Gerhard Schröder. Photo: DPA

Can Gerhard Schröder bring an end to the Kaiser's Tengelmann saga?

Outrage over ruling on 'brutal' gang rape of teen girl
The now convicted suspects, sitting in court in Hamburg. Photo: DPA.

A 14-year-old girl was gang-raped and left partially clothed and unconscious in freezing temperatures. Now prosecutors are appealing the sentences for the young men found guilty, most of whom will not set foot in jail.

Dozens of Turkish diplomats apply for asylum in Germany
Demonstrators holding a giant Turkish flag protest against the attempted coup in Istanbul in July. Photo: DPA.

Since the failed putsch attempt in Turkey in July, Germany has received 35 asylum applications from people with Turkish diplomatic passports, the Interior Ministry confirmed on Wednesday.

Hertha Berlin fan club criticised for 'anti-gay banner'
Hertha BSC beat FC Cologne 2-1. Photo: DPA

A 50 metre fan banner apparently mocking the idea of gay adoption has overshadowed Hertha BSC's win in the Bundesliga.

10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd