If you’re attending the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, British Columbia this month, you’ll have the chance to transmit your brain waves across Canada. When they reach their destination, the province of Ontario, they'll produce a custom light show on one of three prominent Ontario landmarks - presumably to the amazement of thousands of onlookers. While this might sound like technology straight out of an X-Men movie, it is in fact the latest accomplishment of Toronto-based tech firm InteraXon... and it could be just the tip of the iceberg in the field of thought-controlled computing.
InteraXon’s Bright Ideas demo will be located in Ontario House, a pavilion on the Olympic site, intended to promote the distant province to Games-goers. Visitors will take a seat, put on a headset, then relax and/or concentrate on one of three video screens displaying live images of the landmarks - Toronto's CN Tower (the world's second-tallest free-standing structure), Ottawa's parliament buildings, and Niagara Falls.
The headsets measure the brain's electrical output, reacting to relaxation-generated alpha waves, and concentration-generated beta waves. InteraXon's custom software will digitize each users' alpha/beta output, send that data over 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) via the Internet, and a very public live light show will be the result. With coaching from the Bright Ideas staff, users will be able to control things such as the brightness, color, and speed of the show. According to InteraXon, it will be the largest thought-controlled computing installation ever created.
"We're working to bring thought-controlled computing out of research labs and into the mainstream," says Trevor Coleman, Chief Operating Officer for InteraXon. In the past, the firm has created showcases such as a thought-controlled video game. The technology does have more practical applications, however. Existing concepts such as thought-controlled wheelchairs and prosthetics, for example, could be taken to new levels of performance and affordability. The implications for mental rehabilitation are also quite exciting.
And then, of course, there are the applications that no one's even thought of yet. "Imagine controlling anything without the touch of a button - expanding your ability to change the world beyond your physical self, " says CEO Ariel Garten. "It gives you a sense of the potential of the technology we are bringing into everyday life."