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Sight for Sore Ears

Dutchman develops auditory imager for the blind

3 min read

What does your cellphone do for you? If you are blind, it just might give you sight. In October, Blue Edge Bulgaria, in Sofia, a maker of software applications for cellphones, announced the development of software that turns compatible camera phones into visual aids for the blind by changing images snapped by the camera into sounds that the user's brain can reconstruct into mental pictures.

Blue Edge's software is the latest derivative of a suite of programs developed by Peter Meijer, a research physicist at Philips Research, Eindhoven, the Netherlands, who in 1998 produced the first working prototype of the vOICe system. (The three middle letters stand for "Oh, I See.")

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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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