Business Today

The Age of Mind Reading

Is nothing private anymore? Neurotechnology has us believe so.
Team BT   New Delhi     Print Edition: May 6, 2018
The Age of Mind Reading

Researchers are surprising themselves with their breakthroughs in mind reading experiments. There already are several demonstrations of researchers being able to 'see' the images a person's brain is seeing with frightening ease and accuracy - using the widely available EEG. A neural network is presented with thousands of images and their characteristics made into short work of learning.

The algorithm is then taught to match the characteristics with recorded EEG patterns. In this way, it puts two and two together. At the University of Toronto, AI has actually been able to reconstruct faces using information read from EEG scans. The applications in crime investigation are obvious. "I could pick him from a line-up," said a participant, when shown the neural network's reconstructed image.

In Japan, mind reading AI has come up with a description of what a subject is thinking about from analysing brain fMRI (functional MRI) scans. The descriptions are not complex, but they are accurate. Another study conducted at Purdue University in Indiana, US, also managed to decode information about what a subject's brain was seeing and understanding after making them watch videos of 'natural' scenes such as those one might see on National Geographic. And now, research has moved on to involving other sense organs. According to Digital Trends, a new technique is being developed by researchers from KU Leuven in Belgium, in collaboration with the University of Maryland, that could be used to develop hearing aids to help a person understand what is being said.

Scientists can look at a people's brainwaves to see not only whether they have heard a particular sound, but whether they have actually understood it. This involves wearing an EEG brain cap with 64 electrodes fitted in. Brainwaves are examined when someone hears something and tries to understand it. Researchers can reconstruct the speech signals from the brainwave patterns. A successful reconstruction means the user has understood the message. The application of this technology in education and healthcare is being explored.

Further research could result in developing smart hearing aids and combine that with voice guidance; hearing aids could be self-adjusting when they learn that the wearer does not understand speech. Neurotechnology is advancing at such a fast pace that groups have kicked in to lobby for 'neurorights'.

Battery Tech

Move over Lithium Ion

Even at 95, John Goodenough is a busy man. He's looking for the holy grail of battery and energy solutions. Goodenough, the father of lithium-ion batteries that are used in everyday gadgets, research partner Maria Helena Braga and other scientists have been working on new battery tech because, as we are aware, lithium-ion batteries have a tendency to explode and are in any case not as efficient as the world of technology would want today.

The research group led by Goodenough describes what it has developed as a 'safe, low-cost, lithium or sodium rechargeable battery of high energy density and long life'. The low-cost, all-solid-state battery is three times more efficient than lithium ion and can recharge in minutes, making it possible for use in electric vehicles apart from mobile phones and other gadgets. Instead of liquid electrolytes, the team used glass.


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