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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