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EPOC headset  (Source:
Such devices could eventually be used in the gaming, entertainment and medical industry

Many mobile device owners walk around without thinking twice about talking to their smartphones, such as digital assistant Siri, or using simple touch gestures to navigate their gadget of choice. With voice and touch recognition falling into the mainstream, IBM is offering its predictions of what's next, and it looks as if mind reading tops the list.

IBM's "5 in 5" report predicts five technologies that will change the way we live within the next five years. So what will our journey to 2017 bring us? According to Kevin Brown of IBM Software Group's Emerging Technologies, sensors that allow for mind reading is likely to make an introduction.

Mind-reading technology, known as bioinformatics, is expected to make an impact in several areas such as the gaming industry. But Brown specifically points out the potentially useful applications of bioinformatics in the medical field.

"Within five years we will begin to see early applications of this technology in the gaming and entertainment industry," said IBM. "Furthermore, doctors could use the technology to test brain patterns, possibly even assist in rehabilitation from strokes and to help in understanding brain disorders, such as autism."

Brown has already started testing out bioinformatics devices, such as the EPOC from Australian electronics company Emotiv, in order to help individuals like an IBM colleague named Shah. Shah had a stroke in March 2009, leaving him paralyzed and unable to speak. However, Shah has Locked-In Syndrome, where the brain is still working normally but the person can only communicate with their eyes.

Brown and Shah tested the EPOC device, where multiple sensors were attached to Shah's head reading the brain's electrical impulses. Emotiv's software can then be trained to make certain movements on a computer screen that the sensors pick up from reading your thoughts.

In only eight seconds, Shah was able to move a cube in the desired direction on the computer screen using only his thoughts via the EPOC device. The EPOC device needs more work in order to make it a consumer device, but Brown believes EPOC along with other mind-reading devices could get to that point in the next five years.

"By 2017, like all technology, the EPOC or other similar technologies will probably get smaller," said Brown. "So I can imagine it will have completely dry sensors, and I'd be wearing it all the time, perhaps embedded into a baseball cap, and with a finer range of thought patterns detected and connected directly to my mobile phone -- allowing me to interact with the world just by thinking particular thoughts. In doing this I could wonder what the traffic will be like on the way home and this information would pop up in front of me."

The other four predictions in the 2011 5 in 5 report include new ways of powering electrical devices, such as water flowing through the pipes in a house; a closed digital divide thanks to mobile devices that can power remote health care as well as mobile commerce; junk mail will be eliminated due to analytics allowing marketers to only send information that the recipient is interested in, and passwords will be replaced by biometric scanning.

Source: IBM Research

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Industry Applications
By jdietz on 12/20/2011 3:43:16 PM , Rating: 1
For mind-reading tech:
The legal industry. However, you still cannot be forced to testify against yourself, at least in the United States. So its use there could be limited.

The torture (military) industry. It could be useful to know if prisoners are telling the truth or not.

Other tech:
Junk mail will not be eliminated.

I won't stand for biometric scanning. Thieves will cut off people's fingers to access their accounts. Or worse - gouge out their eyes. No thanks. I'd rather have my password stolen.

RE: Industry Applications
By ppardee on 12/20/2011 4:02:06 PM , Rating: 4
I would imagine severed fingers quickly lose their distinctive biometric markers. I know one of the difficulties in identifying bodies is that the fingerprints are no longer as usable due to bloating (like trying to get fingerprints after taking a long bath)... A severed finger, I'd guess, would have the opposite problem, but the same effect... I guess we'll have to check.

Retinal scanners rely on the capillaries on the back of your eye. Unless these blood vessels retain blood even after being severed (which is possible due to surface tension/vacuum) the compared image would be different since the vessels would lack opacity.

RE: Industry Applications
By tng on 12/20/2011 4:56:16 PM , Rating: 2
I think that Hollywood and the stupidity of the thieves that would do something like that trumps your logic.

Normal criminals who would cut off your finger or gouge out your eye would not really think about the real technicalities of the act, just what they have seen on TV.

RE: Industry Applications
By lightfoot on 12/20/2011 5:11:47 PM , Rating: 4
...but they would only do it once before they found out it didn't work.

RE: Industry Applications
By Scrogneugneu on 12/20/2011 10:17:11 PM , Rating: 2
Oh, it's okay then. Which finger would you like to lose? You'll only lose one, I promise...

RE: Industry Applications
By inighthawki on 12/20/2011 5:25:20 PM , Rating: 2
I think there would end up being a bunch of people who did it, and only after they figured out it didnt work and that word spreads would it die down.

RE: Industry Applications
By AntiM on 12/20/2011 4:37:14 PM , Rating: 2
These things are long way off from actually being able to read a person's thoughts. I would think that it's merely reading brain wave activity, just like a common EEG, first done in 1924.

RE: Industry Applications
By MrBlastman on 12/20/2011 9:06:40 PM , Rating: 2
I won't stand for biometric scanning. Thieves will cut off people's fingers to access their accounts. Or worse - gouge out their eyes. No thanks. I'd rather have my password stolen.

If you pack heat, you can cut them off from their life.

Oh, and most biometric scanners are intelligent enough to determine if the part is from a living person or been cut off. How? They use a three-dimensional scan/algorithm which lets them determine if fluid loss is present (from hacking off a limb) and if so, the limb will fail to register the proper authorization.

RE: Industry Applications
By MrBlastman on 12/20/2011 9:07:00 PM , Rating: 2
I'm sorry, most high-end ones... not the common ones, yet.

RE: Industry Applications
By merc14 on 12/21/2011 8:14:40 AM , Rating: 3
The torture (military) industry? Get a grip little boy, the US military has toppled some of the most ruthless dictatorships, that specialized in wholesale torture of their citizens, in history.

No Passwords?? Not a chance.
By lightfoot on 12/20/2011 3:44:53 PM , Rating: 2
...passwords will be replaced by biometric scanning.

Biometrics are a great way to enhance the security of a password, but they can not replace the password.

Any security mechinism can be breached, including biometrics. The problem is that it is virtually impossible to change your biometrics after your account has been breached. Even a simple password used in addition to the biometrics allows for the security that is required while also allowing you to change the access code when necessary.

Passwords aren't going away. However I do hope they start to get simpler once again. This garbage of it needing upper case, lower case, a number AND a symbol and be a minimum of 15 characters is getting VERY excessive.

RE: No Passwords?? Not a chance.
By ppardee on 12/20/2011 4:05:03 PM , Rating: 2
So, what's really going to happen is biometrics will be the next layer of security over the password. 15 characters, at least 1 upper, 1 lower, 1 number and 1 symbol and a retinal scan....

Paranoid sys admins are paranoid.

RE: No Passwords?? Not a chance.
By mino on 12/20/2011 4:12:50 PM , Rating: 2
They are confusing local/remote authentication.

Biometrics are, normally, sufficient for local authentication, (not so for remote unless we can teleport :) ).

Passwords(aka changeable tokens) are a must for remote authentication while not always required for local one (the physical access is often sufficient authentication there).

By geddarkstorm on 12/20/2011 2:47:37 PM , Rating: 5
Someone needs to let those guys know we biologists already coined that term a long time ago for using computers to store and datamine biological information--aka genomes. They should just call it biointerfacing devices, since that's actually what they are, not informatics. /grouchgrouchgrouch

Still, it's cool stuff, and could come in very useful; especially for medical purposes. It'll never be too pervasive, due to the chaotic nature of the brain, but for using motory commands as the signals, it could work brilliantly. And, one can always train thought patterns specifically to give commands to a device for its use.

Do not agree
By alu on 12/20/2011 2:59:30 PM , Rating: 2
They'll rather invent thought scanners before making junk mail obsolete.
Spam is evil. Are they saying they'll deprecate 'evil'?

RE: Do not agree
By sigmatau on 12/20/2011 4:20:19 PM , Rating: 3
How will they know you don't like junk mail? They can't read your mind yet!

Useless r&d resources
By Nyu on 12/20/2011 5:16:41 PM , Rating: 2
So much money and time put into useless technology as of lately, I don't get it; whole world should focus on curing aging before any other tech developments like this (cool, but) useless stuff.

RE: Useless r&d resources
By Scrogneugneu on 12/20/2011 10:21:00 PM , Rating: 2
Aging isn't exactly something that can be cured.

Or maybe you're thinking about making the body ageless, permanently, thus removing the main limit to our lifespan. In that case, please (really, PLEASE) fix the food production scaling problem we're already having before finding out how you can stop people from going away.

Oh reeeaaally...
By wiz220 on 12/20/2011 3:04:57 PM , Rating: 3
Just let me slip on my handy-dandy tin-foil hat!

Brain reading, not mind reading...
By B-Unit on 12/20/2011 4:41:16 PM , Rating: 2
This is only reading electrical activity in the brain, its not reading thoughts. Completely different levels. It would be like saying that because you can detect a hard drive has spun up you know what data it contains.

By thorr2 on 12/20/2011 4:50:59 PM , Rating: 2
I want to use it on my pets! I am pretty sure I know what they are thinking most of the time, but this would be a way to confirm it. :-)

By macca007 on 12/20/2011 11:47:34 PM , Rating: 2
Men- food/sex
Women- shopping/romantic comedies

bahhh who needs a machine to predict. ;)

Rather than
By ballist1x on 12/21/2011 12:06:29 PM , Rating: 2
chopping someones finger off, couldnt you just ask them to, <feign artifical situation> 'hold this for a second' take implement back and backward work the prints from that and create a master copy?

Those survey people you see in town centres will become key to this, and people will not only have to watch themselves when they input a Pin number into an ATM, but anytime they touch ANYTHING that their prints could be recovered from?

"I'm an Internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired." -- North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il

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