A UT-Dallas Professor is Developing a Mind-Controlled Smart Phone

Someday, technology will become so pervasive, such an ingrained part of existence, that it will erase the markers that once distinguished individual human beings and merge them into a single consciousness floating somewhere in the cloud. It's inevitable, really. Just a matter of when.

Working to usher in that era as soon as possible is Roozbeh Jafari, an electrical engineering professor at the University of Texas at Dallas. As the MIT Technology Review reports, he's teamed up with Samsung to develop the next generation of smartphone technology: mind control.

Jafari has basically been hooking test subjects up to brain wave-sensing electrodes and making them open apps, select a contact, power on or off, and perform other simple tasks on a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, with only their mind. EEG-monitoring devices calibrated to pick up on brain activity associated with repeated visual patterns, subjects were able to accurately make the desired selection 80 to 95 percent of the time.

Pretty cool, but that doesn't answer one lingering question: Why? Are touch screens not intuitive enough? Does moving one's thumbs require too much effort?

Partly, Jafari and Samsun hope to help disabled people connect to the world. But more simply, it's the next frontier.

"Several years ago, a small keypad was the only input modality to control the phone, but nowadays the user can use voice, touch, gesture, and eye movement to control and interact with mobile devices," Insoo Kim, Samsung's lead researcher, told the MIT Technology Review. "Adding more input modalities will provide us with more convenient and richer ways of interacting with mobile devices."

The technology is still in its infancy and won't be hitting the market in the immediate future. Speed and accuracy are still a problem, as is the unsightly wired-covered cap test subjects had to use. But all that can be improved with research. Jafari envisions that one day the EEG devices will be so small and portable that they can be worn comfortably on the head all day long. They should look a little something like this:

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Eric Nicholson
Contact: Eric Nicholson