Imagine being able to read Stephen Hawking’s mind. Scary thought, but it’s closer to reality than you might think. Technology to read Hawking’s thoughts. Or yours. Today, on Engineering Works!
Physicist Stephen Hawking’s mind has produced some of the most fascinating ideas of the recent past. The problem is getting those thoughts to the rest of us. Hawking has suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, most of his adult life. He communicates by twitching a muscle in his cheek. Conversation is difficult and time-consuming.
Now, Hawking is working with researchers who are developing a device that can detect electrical signals in the brain. These signals change with different thoughts and activities. For instance, the signal associated with – make a fist – are different from the signals that go with – pick up the pencil. One reason the device is so interesting is that it collects all the signals at one place. It doesn’t need an array of sensors scattered over the skull. A sophisticated computer algorithm tells the signals apart.
It’s going to be awhile before the device is ready to interpret Hawking’s ideas about time and space, but in the meantime, Hawking and its developers hope it can help people with ALS and other neurological conditions communicate better than they now can. Similar monitors are being used in brain research and monitoring how some medications work.
We’re through trying to communicate for today, so we’re shutting down our device. See you next time.
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Start the discussion: Often, devices such as this are associated with invasions of our mental privacy. But imagine what a gift it would be to allow people like Hawking to communicate more readily.