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This week in mind-reading

Lately, you've been thinking "Hey, where are all the updates on mind-reading devices?" Of course, all the relevant scientists already knew this, and they decided to give you what you want today. Here's this week's mind-readers' digest.

You've been thinking, "Hey, where are all the updates on mind-reading devices?" All the appropriate scientists already knew this, so they decided to give you what you want today.

New Scientist

Here's this week's mind-readers' digest.

  • Microsoft applies for mind-reading patent: According to this New Scientist blog post, Microsoft applied for a patent in August that would help the company figure out what people really think about its products. The technology in the patent application, titled "Using electroencephalograph signals for task classification and activity recognition," would read a user's brain states while testing Microsoft's interfaces. This would determine the effectiveness of each test UI and eliminate the possibility of test users telling Microsoft what Microsoft wants to hear. No, this technology is not included in Windows Vista SP1. Yes, you would have to volunteer to have your brain waves recorded. And hey, stop thinking about Bill Gates in a Speedo. [Via Boing Boing.]
  • Brain-computer interface helps man cope with ALS: According to this DelawareOnline feature article, University of Pennsylvania professor Scott Mackler, who was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS) nine years ago, is using a unique system that helps him communicate with people and technology. Mackler wears a cap fitted with 16 electrodes that relay his brainwaves to software that identifies what he is focusing on, helps him perform lectures, and creates written documents. The software is also configured to interact with his TV remote, which lets him trick his wife by changing the channel from girly movies to SportsCenter. More power to you, Scott. Keep fighting the good fight. [Via Delaware Online.]
  • Control 'Second Life' with your mind: Just in case Second Life isn't enough like your real life, the Biomedical Engineering Laboratory at Japan's Keio University have created a brainwave-reading interface that lets users move avatars around with their minds. According to ScienceBlogs, the headset/computer system pinpoints brain activity in the motor cortex and makes on-screen characters move around accordingly. Apparently, all a player has to do is imagine the avatar performing a movement and it actually happens. There's even a YouTube clip of the system in action. [Via ScienceBlogs.]
  • Can brainwaves identify child molesters preemptively? Whenever news of a new touch-screen interface hits the Web, a thousand Minority Report references are close behind. But this story is more Minority Report than all those screens combined. According to this BBC News story, a team of Yale University researchers have discovered a pattern in the way pedophiles' brain activity responds to adult pornographic images. In comparison to other patients in the test group, patients with pedophilic tendencies showed lower hypothalamus activity when they looked at adult pornography. Don't apply for the thought police just yet; rather than using these brain-activity patterns as a way to identify potential child molesters, lead researcher Dr. Georg Northoff says it is a key step in finding new and effective means of therapy for those with pedophilic thoughts. [Via BBC News.]