The Stack Archive

BBC wearable lets viewers zap channels with their minds

Thu 18 Jun 2015

The BBC is developing a mind-reading wearable prototype which lets viewers switch channels and control their TV sets with their brain waves.

Users are able to operate a TV with a headset which allows them to use iPlayer and choose a programme to watch by concentrating on an option or meditating, activities which generate a marked change in brain waves.

The set contains two electroencephalography (EEG) sensors placed on the forehead and next to the ear which read a person’s brain state and feed back binary code to the customised iPlayer interface.

According to Cyrus Saihan, business development head at BBC Digital, the wearable device is still in an “experimental” phase.

“Hopefully it gives an idea of how audiences of the future might be able to control devices such as TVs with just using their brainwaves,” he said.

Referring to a trial with 10 members of the BBC’s staff, Saihan wrote in a blog post that every participant could use the headset to open iPlayer and select a programme to watch.

“You can imagine a world where instead of having to get up from your sofa or reach for your remote, you just think ‘put BBC One on’ when you want to watch TV” he said. “Imagine sitting in your car and thinking ‘I want to listen to Radio 4′ and hearing the radio station come on during your commute to work. Perhaps you might be able to just think ‘give me the latest news’ and in response get served up a personalised set of news headlines.

“It’s important to stress that it’s very early days and while brainwave reading devices are constantly improving, their capabilities are still quite basic – the outputs on our very experimental app were limited to simple binary on/off instructions, for example.”

The BBC is not the first company to test the capabilities of mind-reading technology. Health groups particularly are looking at ways amputee patients can control bionic limbs by interpreting brain waves.

Icelandic firm Ossur, has created a system of miniature implanted myoelectric sensors (IMES) installed in residual muscle tissue which has been successfully trialled with patients able to control their prosthesis just using their minds.

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