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The Mind-Reading Machine

Veritas Scientific is developing an EEG helmet that may invade the privacy of the mind

4 min read
Mike Agliolo/Photo Researchers/Getty Images
Mike Agliolo/Photo Researchers/Getty Images

9 July 2012—Memories and thoughts are private—or at least they used to be. A new company, Veritas Scientific, is developing a technology that promises to peek into a person’s brain to reveal some of their secrets. “The last realm of privacy is your mind,” says Veritas CEO Eric Elbot. “This will invade that.”

Elbot’s device belongs in a Philip K. Dick novel: It’s a futuristic motorcycle-type helmet containing metal brush sensors that will read brain activity as images of, say, bomb specs or Osama bin Laden’s face flash quickly across the inside of the visor. Scientists have shown that familiar images prompt spikes of electrical brain activity that indicate recognition. Recognition indicates memory, and memory implies knowledge. Veritas’s goal is to create an electroencephalogram (EEG) helmet with a slideshow of images that could reliably help to identify an enemy.

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This Implant Turns Brain Waves Into Words

A brain-computer interface deciphers commands intended for the vocal tract

10 min read
A man using an interface, looking at a screen with words on it.

A paralyzed man who hasn’t spoken in 15 years uses a brain-computer interface that decodes his intended speech, one word at a time.

University of California, San Francisco
Blue

A computer screen shows the question “Would you like some water?” Underneath, three dots blink, followed by words that appear, one at a time: “No I am not thirsty.”

It was brain activity that made those words materialize—the brain of a man who has not spoken for more than 15 years, ever since a stroke damaged the connection between his brain and the rest of his body, leaving him mostly paralyzed. He has used many other technologies to communicate; most recently, he used a pointer attached to his baseball cap to tap out words on a touchscreen, a method that was effective but slow. He volunteered for my research group’s clinical trial at the University of California, San Francisco in hopes of pioneering a faster method. So far, he has used the brain-to-text system only during research sessions, but he wants to help develop the technology into something that people like himself could use in their everyday lives.

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