Sniff Control

The nose could be a new computer interface for the severely disabled

3 min read

11 August 2010—For severely paralyzed, "locked in" individuals, sniffing could become a way to communicate with the outside world. Israeli researchers have developed a device that converts nasal pressure into electrical signals, which could enable paralyzed people to type text, surf the Web, and control wheelchairs.

The researchers, led by Noam Sobel, a professor of neurobiology at the Weizmann Institute of Science, in Rehovot, published initial test results for the device last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Sniff control is simpler, more robust, and more affordable than other assistive technologies available to the severely disabled, such as tongue control, sip-and-puff (in which users send signals using a strawlike device), and eye tracking, says electrical engineer Anton Plotkin, lead author on the study. He estimates that a market-ready device to control a computer or wheelchair could cost several hundred dollars, compared with the several-thousand-dollar price tag for eye-tracking devices.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

Are You Ready for Workplace Brain Scanning?

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

11 min read
Vertical
A photo collage showing a man wearing a eeg headset while looking at a computer screen.
Nadia Radic
DarkGray

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.

Keep Reading ↓Show less
{"imageShortcodeIds":[]}