The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

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Brain Beauty Contest

Computer modelers compete to show neurosurgeons the best path to the tumor

1 min read

No, the tumor hasn’t exploded. In this visualization, the purple and green rays “shine” brightest where it’s safest to approach.

Plotting the path to a brain tumor first requires a map. As part of next week’s VisWeek conference, the 2010 IEEE Visualization Contest pitted graphics teams from both industry and academia against one another to see who could best draw that map. Each team transformed the same sets of MRI data into unique, and sometimes bizarre, pictures of the safest paths through the brain. Neurosurgeons decided the winner.

Next year’s contest to model the turbulence from a fluid pump is already accepting submissions.

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Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

Extracting and using brain data will make workers happier and more productive, backers say

11 min read
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A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic
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Get ready: Neurotechnology is coming to the workplace. Neural sensors are now reliable and affordable enough to support commercial pilot projects that extract productivity-enhancing data from workers’ brains. These projects aren’t confined to specialized workplaces; they’re also happening in offices, factories, farms, and airports. The companies and people behind these neurotech devices are certain that they will improve our lives. But there are serious questions about whether work should be organized around certain functions of the brain, rather than the person as a whole.

To be clear, the kind of neurotech that’s currently available is nowhere close to reading minds. Sensors detect electrical activity across different areas of the brain, and the patterns in that activity can be broadly correlated with different feelings or physiological responses, such as stress, focus, or a reaction to external stimuli. These data can be exploited to make workers more efficient—and, proponents of the technology say, to make them happier. Two of the most interesting innovators in this field are the Israel-based startup InnerEye, which aims to give workers superhuman abilities, and Emotiv, a Silicon Valley neurotech company that’s bringing a brain-tracking wearable to office workers, including those working remotely.

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