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Brain-Computer Interface Eavesdrops on a Daydream

Could new research on visual imagination one day let computers tap into our dreams?

3 min read

27 October 2010—New research, which will be reported tomorrow in the journal Nature, points to the ability to snoop on people’s visual imagination—although it’s still a long way away from the full-fledged dream-reading technologies popularized in this summer’s blockbuster movie Inception.

Scientists from Germany, Israel, Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States have performed experiments in which they were able to monitor individual neurons in a human brain associated with specific visual memories. They then taught people to will one visual memory onto a television monitor to replace another.

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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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