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Thought-Controlled Computers on the Way: Intel

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fMRI scan

An fMRI scan example.

Credit: Optima

Intel is developing a computer that can directly read the thoughts of its user by mapping out brain activity produced when people think of particular words. Intel scientists are using MRI scans to measure activity in about 20,000 locations in the brain.

Words produce activity in parts of the brain associated with what they represent, says Intel researcher Dean Pomerlau. Thinking of a word results in activity in certain areas of the brain and would enable the computer to infer attributes of the word, narrow it down, and identify it quickly. A working prototype can already detect words such as house, screwdriver, and barn, but its ability to understand thoughts will improve as brain scanning becomes more advanced.

If successful, Intel's computer could be used to surf the Internet, write emails, and perform other activities, and people with disabilities that prevent them from using a keyboard or mouse could find the computer to be very helpful.

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