The Atlantic article The Robot Will See You Now is a good read. There’s a lot of discussion about how the AI technology developed for IBM Watson could benefit the health care system. Also, advanced computing combined with the use of smart phones for physiological data collection and transmission has real potential:
As sensors shrink and improve, they will increasingly allow health to be tracked constantly and discreetly—helping people to get over illnesses faster and more reliably—and in the best of cases, to avoid getting sick in the first place.
The preventative component of continuous monitoring could have a significant impact in the effectiveness of healthcare delivery.
The economics and psychology of “Health 2.0″ will be an evolutionary process. The movement towards less skilled healthcare professionals equipped with “clinical support” tools is inevitable. Hopefully that will be as close as we get to having to visit a robot doctor.
The latest incarnation of EEG-based devices comes from Muse – The Brainwave Sensing Headband.
Just like other BCI claims, How Mind-Controlled Games Work – And Why It’s Way, Way Bigger Than That is a new approach to consumer brain monitoring applications. From the Muse site (my highlighting):
Our early apps will be focused on building the core of your mind to improve intellectual skills such as memory and concentration, or emotional skills like maintaining composure in high stress situations. Other Muse apps would be just plain fun stuff so you could paint or compose music with your mind or play video games using your mind as the game controller.
The FAQ assures you they’re not mind reading and that it’s not a mind control device.
Taking the “brain heath” approach, see CES 2013: InteraXon debuts Muse along with Brain Health System application, is an interesting twist. I’m a big fan of EEG-based technology. The research efforts and advancements in the BCI field have the potential to improve many lives.
InteraXon is probably doing great things (e.g. the headband is very clever) and they appear to be active in the BCI community. My only issue is with the marketing claims being made. Just like the mind control game controllers that have come before (see Turning the Mind Into a Joystick), the reality of the current technology is still not able to live up to most people’s expectations. This seems especially true when it comes to something as subjective as concentration or stress. Also, painting with your mind — really?
InteraXon raised over $287,000 through Crowdfunding at Indiegogo: MUSE: The Brain-Sensing Headband that lets you control things with your mind. Many of the contributions levels included receiving a device and the brain fitness app. They also expect to provide developers with a SDK by mid-year. That might be fun to play with.
The FDA has announced the Medical Device Innovation Consortium (MDIC) which aims to help medical device companies get their products to market faster. See FDA, Private Groups Team Up to Speed Device Approval.
The term Regulatory Science is used 12 times on the single page MDIC Web site so it must be important. The FDA has been using regulator science in other health related areas since early 2010: see Advancing Regulatory Science.
This consortium is part of a much broader strategy (see the strategic plan) to improve both innovation and safety in FDA-regulated products. The MDIC site talks about subcommittees and projects but it’s unclear what specific medical device topics will be addressed. It will be interesting to follow their growth and progress.
BCI research is important work (see here). The availability of reasonably priced hardware and general purpose APIs has made it easy to investigate many aspects of how EEG processing of can be used to control the external environment.
The extrapolation of this work into the concept of mind reading software appears to be inevitable, but even after all these years, is still annoying. The latest incarnation of this is based on reputable work at Universities of Oxford and Geneva, and the University of California, Berkeley: Hackers backdoor the human brain, successfully extract sensitive data.
To start with, finding a correlation between P300 responses and a person’s image recognition — by 15% – 40% compared to random guessing — isn’t exactly earth shattering. Also, note that P300 is an average of multiple evoked responses. This requires many repetitions of the stimulus (16 times in this study) to reduce the noise enough and see the signal at all. As a practical matter, this is a really long way from brain malware.
Checkout Computers can read your mind. Still amazing!
Here’s the graphic from Hacking the Human Brain? Not As Impossible As You Think about the same research:
I didn’t realize there was a whole website for “NEWS ABOUT BRAIN-COMPUTER INTERFACES (BCI), MIND-CONTROLLED GADGETS & BIOFEEDBACK” — interesting stuff.