WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
Your mind can perceive threats much faster than you can react to them, now companies are building mind reading tech into products to help keep you safe.
Brain Machine Interfaces (BMI) that read your brainwaves, and ergo emotions, moods, and can stream your thoughts to the TV, used to be awkward clunky things, but now they’re miniaturising so much so that we’re at the point where we can pack them into an increasingly wide range of gadgets, like these E-Glasses, and into stick on Smart Tattoos – all of which means that we’re getting closer being able to create mainstream products that come with sci-fi like mind reading capabilities built in as standard. Just imagine, for example, being able to send a Whatsapp message or controlling your Smart TV at home with just your thoughts and you get the picture – literally. Needless to say the tech opens the door to a huge variety of new applications, and in time it’ll completely freak the hell out of regulators and privacy experts who are still trying to battle the implications of today’s tech let alone tomorrow’s.
Now, in another example of what’s possible when mind reading tech meets gadgets a company in Australia has combined a BMI system, albeit a more traditional one, into an E-Bike and they hope it will help keep cyclists out of harms way and improve safety.
E-Bikes already offer all kinds of opportunities for smart software integration – just check out the Greyp 6.1 that can adjust its assistance rate to keep your heart in a certain cardio zone, or auto-capture video when its AI detects you’ve done something cool. But this latest innovation is a world first – an E-Bike hooked up to an EEG brain monitoring cap that sits under your helmet.
It’s the work of researchers from the Exertion Games Lab at Australia’s Monash University, a lab which has put forth two other fairly out-there E-Bike concepts as well. The Ava E-Bike project determines its assistance level based on how far forward you’re leaning, and the Ari project uses smart city infrastructure to help you plan your speed on the road so you catch as many green lights as possible.
The latest is Ena, the brain-connected electroencephalogram (EEG) bike, and it asks the rider to wear a skull cap covered in electrodes. These electrodes monitor electrical activity in the occipital region at the rear of the brain as you ride.
“Ena monitors that the user’s neural activity is between 0.76 and 1.19 microvolts, within the high alpha range of 10-12 Hz,” says a member of the development team. “These correspond to the rider’s field of view being peripherally open, to afford high awareness of the environment.”
A cable snake sends this data to a laptop, which is carried as you ride, and which interfaces with the bike’s electronics. When the bike detects you’re in a state of peripheral awareness, it turns on the electric motor. But when your field of awareness contracts – which happens automatically when your brain senses some kind of threat or “zooms in” to concentrate on something – it switches off your electric support. The goal here is safety; the bike can recognise danger as quickly as your brain can, and quickly acts to prevent you from accelerating toward it.
It’s an interesting approach, one the researchers describe as almost parental, only intervening when it feels you need it, and they also see this type of innovation being useful in semi-autonomous vehicles. Afterall, the idea of hijacking the brain’s threat response mechanisms to teach vehicles to react at the speed of thought is an interesting one. Our biology might not have been designed for the speeds we can do in today’s vehicles, but our threat recognition circuitry is pretty impressive, and perhaps something that vehicles can benefit from as machine learning ramps up its ability to read the roads for us.
Indeed, this E-Bike is far from an endpoint, as researcher Josh Andres says: “… using peripheral awareness as a neurological state for human-computer integration is viable, and it offers access to a user’s pre-attentive processing state that the system can act upon to support a user experience.” And then of course comes the inevitable question of where else could we use this kind of tech – the answer to which is basically anywhere which makes the innovation so exciting and scary at the same time.
Source: Exertion Games Lab