Thursday, April 03, 2014

Thinking about the Brain-Computer Interface (BCI)

Inquiry from a fellow UAT testing person:
I was wondering if you know anyone (or anyone who knows anyone…) who is somehow involved in the field of Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) research and development ? I am thinking it could be fascinating to expose my son to it, especially given that one of its application’s is “Neurogaming” :

“Currently, there is a new field of gaming called Neurogaming, which uses non-invasive BCI in order to improve gameplay so that users can interact with a console without the use of a traditional controller.[71] Some Neurogaming software use a player's brain waves, heart rate, expressions, pupil dilation, and even emotions to complete tasks or effect the mood of the game.[72] For example, game developers at Emotiv have created non-invasive BCI that will determine the mood of a player and adjust music or scenery accordingly. This new form of interaction between player and software will enable a player to have a more realistic gaming experience.[73] Because there will be less disconnect between a player and console, Neurogaming will allow individuals to utilize their "psychological state"[74] and have their reactions transfer to games in real-time.[73]
However, since Neurogaming is still in its first stages, not much is written about the new industry

This is a field that I've had an interest in for many years. It is now getting formally named and categorized but military, medical, software and gaming firms have been exploring this for several years. You just know Apple and Google have a skunk works doing this research. These and other firms all keep their research close but sometimes ask subject matter experts (SME) like myself to test it and give them some input, usually under the terms of Non-Disclosure Agreements. I'm on their lists of computer guys that can teach other people about the nascent field. There are some incredible new developments they've discussed with me but I treasure the relationships and never violate the NDAs. That's one reason they keep coming back to me. 

Another huge reason they like tapping my brain is my knowledge of digital imaging technology and Mac gear. I'm a very thorough User Acceptance Tester (UAT). I help them write the UAT scripts for every role, do the testing, capture every glitch and then present my results in plain English with plenty of visuals. That last part is tough to find in a UAT person but remember, I remain a photographer underneath all these layers of technology! Unfortunately my age seems to be the barrier to full-time UAT work, the job interviewers love my experience in many verticals, communication skills and computer background but they seem reluctant to put me on their group health insurance. I take smaller assignments anyway and keep my skills sharp that way.

I'm told my past five years in mobile broadband, especially with Apple (AAPL) gear and extensive 4G/LTE training and hands-on could get me in the door to a UAT lab but I have yet to find that door. My new boss at work does some UAT work so perhaps I'll get the chance at my day job!

Verizon has a special lab in Boston that does some of this research since all these applications require wireless or wired links to some computer server in another part of the world!

Surgeons can do some pretty precise work when their new tools include a Brain-computer component, for example. New Eye and nerve surgery tools now have some brain interface but very few hospitals can afford this gear. Veterans that have lost a limb are now using artificial limbs directly controlled by their nerves/brain. That's actually where the bulk of the advances were made recently.

In Gaming this concept is re-awakening the old virtual reality massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs), and massively multiplayer role-playing games (MMORPG) market. It will create a revolution in the market, if the military doesn't keep siphoning off all the best developers in this field. MIT and Stanford probably lead in creating new developers. Perhaps the new computer school in Paris, called 42, will get into this arena. Facebook wants to create chat rooms where people can sense what the other people are feeling. Sort of like virtual dating, if you will. The newest sensors are able to detect mood, physical and mental states, and how alert someone is. Google Glass does some of this just by having someone wear those funky eyeglasses. 

In the development labs they are wearing special headgear loaded with sensors. Some developers even swallow a tiny pill that has sensors and even micro-cameras. 

I enjoyed training for marathon races with software and sensors that input my heart rate and blood pressure. It was interesting to use that information, while I was running. I used a very special wristwatch. Now I use the same wireless sensors along with my iPhone to do much the same thing. I'm ready to put on a "thinking cap" to play computer games and I do wander around in virtual reality games. I'm just as thrilled screening an old 1920s G.W. Pabst silent movie or Mizoguchi film from the 1950s.

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