Now this is revolutionary to say the least! Intel recently demonstrated software that can tell-under very controlled circumstances-what a person is thinking by reading brain waves at its Tech Heaven event. The company has been working Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh to develop software and an interface to convert brain waves scanned from MRIs into something recognizable by computers.
The software analyzes functional MRI scans to determine what parts of a person’s brain is being activated as he or she thinks. In tests, it guessed with 90% accuracy which of two words a person was thinking about. This could eventually help the severely physically disabled to communicate.
For now, the project’s accomplishments are far more modest — it can only be used with prohibitively expensive and bulky fMRI equipment and hasn’t yet been adapted to analyze abstract thoughts.
The system works best when a person is first scanned while thinking of dozens of different concrete nouns — words like“bear or hammer. When test subjects are then asked to pick one of two new terms and think about it, the software uses the earlier results as a baseline to determine what the person is thinking.
The software works by analyzing the shared attributes of different words. For example, a person who is thinking of a bear uses the same parts of the brain that light up when he or she thinks of a puppy or something else furry. A person thinking of a bear also shows activity in the amygdala — home of the fight-or-flight response.