Join 3,378 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The Brain-Twitter Interface
April 21, 2009 10:50 AM   Subscribe

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have recently unveiled new methods to Twitter from your brain. It may not be as efficient or pragmatic as using your phone, but there's pretty cool potential in this kind of technology.
posted by jon_hansen (33 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Brain not included.
posted by Outlawyr at 11:00 AM on April 21, 2009 [8 favorites]


that's nothing new - people around here have been tweaking for years
posted by pyramid termite at 11:01 AM on April 21, 2009


New hotness: eight characters per minute. Old and busted: Morse code.

You could get way faster communication with Morse and eyeblinks.

Yes, I realize this isn't the point, but when they're tying it into Twitter, it sorts of demands comparison. Morse Twitter would be far more efficient.

Next up: semaphore-to-Twitter for the merely verbally challenged.
posted by Malor at 11:09 AM on April 21, 2009


You know, Twitter actually seems perfect for this, if the technology ever becomes widely available.

I mean, at 8 characters per minute, a 140-character message isn't just a fleeting thought — it's 15 or 20 minutes' worth of careful and focused composition. But I'm betting that if I were paralyzed or immobilized, being able to broadcast a message like that, and get responses — and do it all asynchronously, so that slow typing didn't make it impossible to keep up — would make a huge, huge difference.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:10 AM on April 21, 2009


(Although, on non-preview, yes, there are probably faster input methods. But dude. Writing with your brain. I'm sure there's a certain amount of BECAUSE IT'S THERE about this project, and I'm enough of a gadget-happy futurist ninny that I'm okay with that.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:12 AM on April 21, 2009


I've been Twittering with my brain for 39 years now. Some Call It Speech.
posted by Mister_A at 11:19 AM on April 21, 2009 [3 favorites]


Well, my method of smashing my face into my keyboard hasn't worked so far, so sign me up!
posted by mannequito at 11:20 AM on April 21, 2009


Watching the video, what exactly is going on? They flash random rows or columns of letters. I assume the system has some way of detecting when the letter your focusing on flashes?
posted by delmoi at 11:32 AM on April 21, 2009


Oh, the last thing I need is more opportunity to post directly from the Id.
posted by Spatch at 11:37 AM on April 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


Snark aside, it is pretty cool.
posted by Mister_A at 11:37 AM on April 21, 2009


Use the force with your brain.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 11:39 AM on April 21, 2009


Clicked the link and the photo looks like a guy wearing a propeller beanie. How appropriate. Put Twitter in the shitter.
posted by autodidact at 11:39 AM on April 21, 2009


(I realize TFA is not about Twitter)
posted by autodidact at 11:40 AM on April 21, 2009


Watching the video, what exactly is going on? They flash random rows or columns of letters. I assume the system has some way of detecting when the letter your focusing on flashes?

From the article:
"All the letters come up, and each one of them flashes individually," Justin Williams, a UW assistant professor of biomedical engineering who serves as Wilson's faculty adviser, explained in a news release issued today. "And what your brain does is, if you're looking at the 'R' on the screen and all the other letters are flashing, nothing happens. But when the 'R' flashes, your brain says, 'Hey, wait a minute. Something's different about what I was just paying attention to.' And you see a momentary change in brain activity."

The electrodes embedded in the cap read that change and figure out which character is associated with it - although sometimes it takes a few repeats to get the letter absolutely right. "Some people, for whatever reason, are better at this," Williams told me today. "They have stronger brain signals for the given activity."
The whole row/column flashing seems to be a clever way of narrowing down which letter without flashing every letter individually.
posted by ALongDecember at 11:42 AM on April 21, 2009


I have to wonder if you couldn't recruit or even grow a few motor neurons for this kind of thing. I'm not expecting to open my mouth and emit a eet-eet-eet-eet WheeWheeWheeWhee whIR-whUR-whuhrrr crxt!rxt!rxt!rxt! and connect at 56k or anything, but 100cpm would be a good start.

The biological interface would be a bitch. You'd need something that wouldn't be an open pathway into the skull. Perhaps sealed in the skull, topped up by an induction coil of some kind, transmitting at ultra low power and short-range, check-summed to hell and back. Kissing having MRIs goodbye; unless you could build it out of non-magnetic parts (excepting the coil which might be engineered to pick up at a very specific frequency, an enormous Q for the circuit), the interface would lift off and go whanging around inside your braincase, transforming your grey matter into puree rather shortly.

As much of a lifeline it must be for the locked-in, this won't hit the mainstream until we can do some kind of non-trivial fraction of average typing speed with it. Go research!
posted by adipocere at 11:43 AM on April 21, 2009


I hate Twitter. I am Leon Kass for Twitter.
posted by Dia Nomou Nomo Apethanon at 11:43 AM on April 21, 2009


I have to wonder if you couldn't recruit or even grow a few motor neurons for this kind of thing.

I doubt you'd need to grow any new ones. The motor cortex is super plastic, and with practice I'd imagine that you're massively potentiating synapses that existing motor neurons already use for similar tasks.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 11:48 AM on April 21, 2009


Mine seems to be broken. All it will write is "BOOBS" especially when that hot lab tech comes into the room to work on the machine.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:51 AM on April 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Can I copyright the word "twoughts" right now?
posted by sourwookie at 12:00 PM on April 21, 2009 [5 favorites]


43 posts tagged with twitter

2007:  7 / 52 = 0.13/week
2008: 16 / 52 = 0.31/week
2009: 20 / 16 = 1.25/week


Surely we have hit Peak Twitter.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 12:17 PM on April 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Twitter is a protocol for bringing the joy of loud people on public transit to your home. Direct Replies via @messages simulates the ones on cell phones. iPhones give you the ability to be twice as annoyed on public transit.
posted by srboisvert at 12:18 PM on April 21, 2009


Users can pick up the pace with practice: "I've seen some people do up to eight characters per minute," Wilson said.

I wonder if this is analogous to voice-recognition software in the 90s--it was pretty cumbersome at first, but the disability community was clamoring for it. As commercial interest took off (physician dictation being one commercial use), the technology got better and users didn't have to work as hard to get a single simple sentance "typed up." This is tremendously exciting!

Plus, it means I am one step closer to having that electronic billboard mounted on my car that displays my thoughts to the idiot driver who just cut me off or refused to let me merge in. Or to the cute driver of that BMW I'm always behind in the Starbucks drivethru.
posted by njbradburn at 12:18 PM on April 21, 2009


Welcome to the Borg; you will be assimilated.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:36 PM on April 21, 2009


What the mainstream media won't tell you is that they had Ashton Kucher and Demi Moore locked up in a research lab for several years working on this in top secret. The initial research efforts showed promise when lab notebooks showed Moore wearing a paper bag over her head, with the words "BRAIN TWIT" printed in crayon. Grant funding was renewed immediately.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:46 PM on April 21, 2009


As much of a lifeline it must be for the locked-in, this won't hit the mainstream until we can do some kind of non-trivial fraction of average typing speed with it ..... crazy-ass sex with it.

----

Welcome to the Borg: We're over capacity right now. Too many Thoughts! Please wait a moment and think again.


posted by The Whelk at 12:59 PM on April 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


Justin Williams is awesome. I saw one of his lectures on neurological biofluidics and I just about shat myself, it was so cool.

(I'm a Badger.)
posted by kldickson at 2:02 PM on April 21, 2009


If they reverse the signal, can they inject letters into my thoughts?
posted by doctor_negative at 2:31 PM on April 21, 2009


I like doctor_negative's idea...
posted by jon_hansen at 2:36 PM on April 21, 2009


At 8 words a minute, this seems a bit silly right now, but I can totally see in 20 years, something like this being integrated into EEG sensing sunglasses that will let you send messages and identify things without ever using your hands or mouth, merely looking and thinking hard will be enough to accomplish the task.

And that's when we start blurring the lines between magical fantasy and scientific reality.
posted by quin at 2:38 PM on April 21, 2009


This has no more to do with Twitter than your keyboard does. It's an interface. Linking it to Twitter seems intensely forced.

That said, it's an awesome interface, and I want one.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:40 PM on April 21, 2009


(stares blankly at the screen, hypnotized by the flashing columns)
posted by Samizdata at 10:18 PM on April 21, 2009


If they reverse the signal, can they inject letters into my thoughts?
posted by doctor_negative


I like doctor_negative's idea...
posted by jon_hansen


doctor_negative is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:05 AM on April 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


If they reverse the signal, can they inject letters into my thoughts?


Ahem.

Bender: Quit squawking, flesh wad. Nobody's forcing you to buy anything.

Amy: Yeah. I mean we all have commercials in our dreams but you don't see us running off to buy brand-name merchandise at low, low prices.

posted by The Whelk at 9:44 AM on April 22, 2009


« Older Sidi or Siddi is a "community of the descendants ...  |  It's a simple story about a re... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments