In 1875, Liverpool physician Richard Caton published his findings concerning the electrical phenomena of the exposed cerebral hemispheres of rabbits and monkeys, beginning a line of research which led to Hans Berger’s recording of human brain activity in 1924. Since that time, electroencephalography has been developed primarily for its medical applications, such as the diagnosis of epilepsy, but if you google EEG today you’ll find a bewildering variety of EEG headsets that you can buy for personal use, in fact they’ve been on the market since 2007.
An EEG headset detects the brain’s electrical activity via electrodes and it’s being used for some quite extraordinary research projects. In 2012 Texas-based Chaotic Moon Lab, hooked up an EEG headset to a tablet and a powered skateboard to enable the wearer to control the movement of the skateboard by their thoughts. The creators were ready to admit though that getting distracted was a problem that they hadn’t yet managed to resolve. In 2013 EEG headsets were used to enable a group of physically impaired musicians to ‘make music with their minds’ and in 2014 EEG headsets were used in an experiment comparing the brain activity of amateur and professional poker players. Brain activity was translated into brain maps which revealed that professional players exercised more emotional control when raising or bluffing and that they demonstrated more intense critical engagement.
The latest application for the EEG headset is being pioneered by the BioSense lab at the University of California. Passthoughts is a development of biometrics technology which enables individuals to be identified by their brainwaves. The aim of this technology? To provide an access system that is safer than passwords. Theoretically, one that is impregnable. And why do we need a new system? Well, apart from the fact that we’re swamped with passwords, they’re not actually very secure. It’s not just those poor celebrities whose hacked accounts have resulted in those unfortunate photos being posted all over the net, it’s the 32 million hacked Twitter passwords or the 167 million Linkedin accounts that were hacked or the 360 million records from MySpace that, according to LeakedSource, were obtained by hacking.
Worried? You probably should be. According to a 2015 survey by Telesign, two out of five people had been notified during the previous year that their personal information had been hacked or compromised. So, clearly a better system would be a big help to us all. BioSense have been working on this technology for three years and claim a 99% authentication accuracy. The headset would enable the user to access their data by saying a memorable phrase in their head or singing a song. The problem perhaps lies not with the technology but with the aesthetics; is wearing something that resembles a telephone headset, EEG technology detects the brain’s electrical activity via electrodes remember, going to catch on as fashion technology, or would we rather look a tad cooler and continue to have our accounts hacked?