The Weekly Geek: Texting with your brain


It seems fitting that last week I brought up MuVChat — potentially the most frivolous use of texting technology on the planet — while this time around, I’d like to introduce the idea of actually putting this tech to good use. Think of it as geek karma.

A research team at University Wisconsin Madison was able to put together an apparatus that turns your brain activity into short messages — perfect for tweeting. In fact, to demonstrate the technology, grad student Adam Wilson actually Twittered “using EEG to send tweet,” using nothing but his grey matter. It all works by presenting a simple keyboard-like list of characters on a computer screen. The user wears a particular Star Trek-looking skullcap, (which reads electrical activity) and is able to focus on certain letters to “enter” them into a message.

Aside from being incredibly cool, this has a ton of implications for use in patients who cannot communicate (they suffer from “locked-in syndrome”). Wilson even indicated that Twitter, with its “manageable” 140-character limit, would be an ideal system to model the interface after.

Ah, Twitter, is there anything you can’t do? Anything that allows me to see what Ellen is up to and helps previously locked-in patients communicate is wonderful in my book. It makes me proud to be a geek when something, you know, useful comes out of my various web-based obsessions.

Taking things even further down the nerd rabbit hole, this feels like another step towards total wired connectivity, as imagined by the great authors of cyber punk sci-fi. How cool would it be to be able to “tap in” to networks using your mind? Or, imagine being able to actually send texts just by thinking about it.

Actually, scratch that — I can only imagine how obscene and bizarre a few ex-girlfriend drunk texts could turn out without something of a filter. After all, your friends can steal your phone away when you get that hazy look in your eyes; they can’t very well take your brain away and pretend that you just left it in the bar.

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