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Coughing Up Who You Are

West Virginia researchers believe the human cough may be a unique biometric identifier

3 min read

17 November 2004--Fingerprints are currently the only reliable and easy way to tell identical twins apart. Now, researchers have found something else that could work--coughing. In an initial investigation, Jeremy Day, an engineer at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), succeeded in training software to tell people apart by their coughs. The network passed the twin test by correctly identifying Jeremy and his twin Joshua, who has a slightly different sounding cough. "I tend to wheeze a little," Jeremy Day says.

Day and his colleagues in the Developmental Engineering Research Team at NIOSH's Morgantown, W.Va, laboratories recorded voluntary coughs of people in their research group. They then chose various sound signal and airflow parameters such as length, power, volume, acceleration, and variance to train the neural network. They presented their initial findings on 14 October at the Biomedical Engineering Society's 2004 Meeting in Philadelphia.

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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
A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic

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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