John Smart predicts the coming of the Linguistic User Interface(LUI) at around 2020. Microsoft Research is already working on it, actually voice recognition, the first step towards a LUI, will be an integral part of Longhorn. Same idea at SAP, voice can be used as one of the many channels to interact with their applications.
But slow down, I hate it already when people are yapping on their cell phones in a public space. Although, I admit, that sometimes I am one of them. Same issue in cubical country; it is super distracting when people are on the phone in the office, but usually it’s only one or two. With the LUI it would be everyone. Give me a break.
Maybe we can bypass that stap, or leave it somewhere in the privacy of our homes. The data rate of 160 words per minute is way better than the 40 to 60 that you get on a keyboard, but how about going directly to a brain user interface (BUI)?
I was getting hopeful when I saw professor Kevin Warwick, self proclaimed first cyborg, who is the first human that implanted a chip into his body. (You have to discount all the people with pacemakers, minor detail.)
He presented his research at Stanford a couple of weeks back. Professor Warwick connected a chip to a nerve fiber of his left arm and was able to send signals through that nerve to a computer, as well as getting signals back from the computer to his brain. After a bit of training he could manipulate a robotic arm even over the Internet.
The video that he showed looked as if the robotic hand movement was only binary on or off. I could not discern fine-motor movements. When I asked him, he assured us that he was able to grab a raw egg without breaking it while blindfolded.
He also showed a video of an experiment, where he was blindfolded and the electrode in his arm was hooked up to movement sensors attached to his head. When his assistants would go towards him with a large piece of cardboard, he would get such a strong signal that he would jump back.
I was sure that the human body would reject such a foreign object, but to my astonishment, he said that it was tough to get the device out of his body because it was so grown in.
I remember once seeing a documentary about the Wright Brothers’ first flight. Back then I thought “What’s the big deal, they barely left the ground?” I didn’t realize, back then, that it was a big deal because humans left the ground powered by an engine for the first time. (If you have not heard, it happened 100 years ago this month: December 17th. This picture has to be over 100 years old and can’t be copyrighted anymore, or am I wrong? I’ll take it down otherwise.)
Kevin Warwick’s findings felt a bit like “barely off the ground”, total baby steps, but the possibilities are humongous. One of them is the BUI: You formulate your e-mail in your brain and like magic it appears on the screen.
Researching his work, or ahem “Googling” him, I realized that you have to take what he says with a grain of salt. The register even calls him Captain Cyborg and has a whole list of articles dedicated to his publicity stunts.
Probably the LUI will come before the BUI.