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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.

A picture named brother wright.jpgI 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.

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  1. Benny Schaich-Lebek
    … but you really like to have a wire in your head?
    Sounds like Marvin Minsky is back (well, internet just told me he is still alive), who wants to become immortal by converting to a machine (his bio doesn’t keep his birthdate, which means he doesn’t want us to know how old he is, which in turn for me is a sign for fear of death).
    The day we get a computer reading our mind and fulfilling wishes is the day you should fear: Remember “Forbidden Planet”….

    Regards,
    Benny

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    1. Mark Finnern Post author
      >… but you really like to have a wire in your head?

      I am quite confident, that if it works, it will be wireless.

      We should think about the consequences already and what can be done to gide them in a positive direction.

      Once direct brain interface is possible and faster than typing, there will be no turning back.

      You could compare it with the arrival of the computer. It’s tough to say: ” I don’t want to look into a monitor all day, I am sticking with the typewriter.” Your employment opportunity are very limited and getting smaller by the day.

      There are a host of issues with a direct brain interface. It is a two way stream, how do you control what you get fed?

      But it is an illusion to believe that this is not happening already. Billboards work that way, they plant a picture/message in your brain, and although we believe that we control this, it gets stored in our brain and the picture and luring is very powerful.

      I like new technologies, but what i would like even more is to make sure they are going in the right direction. First order for that is to understand what is coming and what the opportunities are.

      Best, Mark.

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      1. Benny Schaich-Lebek
        >Once direct brain interface is possible and faster than typing, there will be no turning back.

        For sure. But this is still far away as I don’t see any possible interface to use. And…

        >It is a two way stream, how do you control what you get fed?

        You’re absolutely right. And as a science fiction fan I already know about three stories that discuss this. Best known today maybe the picture “Brainstorm” from the eighties -from harmless input of having fun you immediately get other ideas like loading the feed with recorded sexuality :-), *** in a loop, psychotic experience, experience of death. And what else?

        >Billboards work that way, they plant a picture/message in your brain, and although we believe that we control this, it gets stored in our brain and the picture and luring is very powerful.

        If you refer to the famous story about the experiment were they put single pictures in a cinema presentation and found that it raised soda revenue – this is long profen to be an urban myth. It does not work, at least not as easy as this.

        >I like new technologies, but what i would like even more is to make sure they are going in the right direction

        Well, then you better ask more questions about them. I remember when I asked CompuServe representatives about consequences of other people posting illegal stuff in my forum. All they told me was bla bla. Two years later the boss of their german sub went to court and nearly faced a two years punishment in jail for distributing pornography (he could get over it by appeal).

        At least we don’t have upload space in SDN. And hopefully never an onbrain feed – as much as i trust my company…

        Regards,
        Benny

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        1. Mark Finnern Post author
          > If you refer to the famous story about the experiment were they put single pictures in a cinema presentation and found that it raised soda revenue

          No, I am thinking about plain old billboards. I always thought, why do they pay so much money for placing these Ads, they can’t influence me. In your conscious mind they don’t have any say. But I am now convinced, that they reach you on a deeper level. You only think you have a free will, when you choose the Coke over the Pepsi bottle, and this is a harmless example.  

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