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Put aside for the moment the question of why you would put spectacles on a housefly and consider how you would do it. First, of course, you'd have to make the specs. Micreon GmbH, of Hannover, Germany, used a pulsed titanium-sapphire laser to fashion the tiny eyewear, in a sleek style so fashionable at the moment. Günter Kamlage, a mechanical engineer and cofounder of Micreon, says the laser pulses, just femtoseconds long, cut the glasses out of a thin, tiny sheet of tungsten. They measure only 2 millimeters from temple to temple; note Micreon's logo etched on the nose bridge. The difficult part was placing them on the insect, which was quite dead. Basically, they used really small tweezers and a microscope, Kamlage says, and it took almost two weeks, because the glasses kept sliding off the fly's face. The publicity stunt was conceived a year ago by Kamlage's wife, Beatrix, to demonstrate the precision possible with femtosecond lasers.

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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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