I am ancient enough to remember when remote controls for the TV first came into existence and boy were we impressed. But now that’s old hat as Samsung has created smart TV software you can control with your brainwaves.
Three months ago, Samsung’s Swiss operations started the project in partnership with the Centre of Neuroprosthetics of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland. Samsung showed off its second prototype TV last week at its developer conference in San Francisco.
On a more serious note the initial aim is make Samsung’s TVs more accessible for people with physical disabilities to be able to change channels and adjust sound levels with their brainwaves.
How we can provide accessibility to people who cannot move or who have extreme limitations on their movements. We’re making tech that is complex, that is more intelligent, but we should not forget this tech is being made to interface with humans.
One thing to take into account is everybody is different. Currently, the technology has to be tailored to each person because of variations in brains. We believe we have to do the best for the person, so we have to personalise.- Ricardo Chavarriga: Senior Scientist, EPFL
According to Samsung’s presentation, the first step is to collect a sample of how the brain behaves when the user wants to do something like select a TV programme.
Samsung, along with its partner EPFL combine indicators from both the environment and brain scans and build a model, apply machine learning to let the user select shows using eye movements and brainwaves.
With the prototype the user wore a headset covered with 64 sensors while looking at an eye tracker. The prototype uses eye tracking to establish when a user has selected a particular show.
They system then builds a profile of videos the user might favour. This makes it easier to develop lists of content. The user ultimately makes the selection using eye tracking.
Samsung are not the only company looking at exploiting brainwaves to control devices. SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk launched Nueralink back in 2017 which is dedicated to creating ‘neural lace’ which involves installing tiny electrodes in the brain to transmit thoughts.
Of course, the technology is in its infancy, but it is not far-fetched to imagine it can one day replace touch screens and voice assistants in devices. While at present the majority of research is aimed at people with disabilities, in the future it will surely become available to all of us.