Samsung Researching Brain Signals as Mobile Device Control

Samsung is testing a way to control your mobile device with your brainwaves.

If that project succeeds, it would truly be a case of science fiction brought to real life. According to MIT Technology Review, Samsung’s Emerging Technology Lab is collaborating with Roozbeh Jafari, assistant professor of electrical engineering at the University of Texas, Dallas, on the early-stage research. That research involves placing a cap “studded with EEG-monitoring electrodes” atop the head of a convenient subject, who then concentrates on an onscreen icon blinking at a particular rate. Concentrate hard enough, and the subject can launch and interact with applications.

MIT Technology Review suggests that apparatus “shows how a brain-computer interface could help people with mobility issues complete tasks that would otherwise be impossible,” and lists a handful of EEG-reading headsets already on the market. However, Samsung indicated that mind-controlled mobile devices are quite a ways off, if they ever appear in a market-ready form at all.

“Several years ago, a small keypad was the only input modality to control the phone, but nowadays the user can use voice, touch, gesture, and eye movement to control and interact with mobile devices,” Insoo Kim, Samsung’s lead researcher, told the Review. “Adding more input modalities will provide us with more convenient and richer ways of interacting with mobile devices.”

Brain research has taken some interesting turns of late. Back in February, researchers at Duke University, the Edmond and Lila Safra International Institute for Neuroscience of Natal in Brazil, and the Neoscience Research Institute at Beijing’s Peking University revealed a methodology whereby rats were implanted with sets of micro-electrodes in the brains (specifically, the primary motor cortex). Those implants allowed for the real-time transfer of what the researchers termed “behaviorally meaningful sensorimotor information” between two rats separated by thousands of miles.

In theory, multiple brains could be linked into a “net” that could facilitate the exchange of information over long distances—think of it as the Cloud on Steroids.

Throw in the idea of people manipulating handheld operating systems with only their thoughts, and the whole thing gets even crazier—the Internet and all its associated devices controlled by simple brainpower, bypassing hands and fingers entirely. It’s a crazy concept, the sort of thing Philip K. Dick might have written up as a short story, but it’s one evidently grounded in reality.


Image: agsandrew/