People express their mental states, including emotions, thoughts, and desires, all the time through facial expressions, vocal nuances, and gestures. This is true even when they are interacting with machines. Our mental states shape the decisions that we make, govern how we communicate with others, and affect our performance. The ability to attribute mental states to others from their behavior and to use that knowledge to guide our own actions and predict those of others is known as the theory of mind or mind-reading which makes computer reading your mind.
Existing human-computer interfaces are mind-blind — oblivious to the user’s mental states and intentions. A computer may wait indefinitely for input from a user who is no longer there, or decide to do irrelevant tasks while a user is frantically working towards an imminent deadline. As a result, existing computer technologies often frustrate the user, have little persuasive power and cannot initiate interactions with the user. With the increasing complexity of computer technologies and the ubiquity of mobile and wearable devices, there is a need for machines that are aware of the user’s mental state and that adaptively respond to these mental states.
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Different techniques making Mind Reading Computers possible
- The mind reading actually involves measuring the volume and oxygen level of the blood around the subject’s brain, using a technology called functional near-infrared spectroscopy (FNIRS). The user wears a sort of futuristic headband that sends light in that spectrum into the tissues of the head where it is absorbed by active, blood-filled tissues. The headband then measures how much light was not absorbed, letting the computer gauge the metabolic demands that the brain is making.The results are often compared to an MRI, but can be gathered with lightweight, non-invasive equipment.Wearing the FNIRS sensor, experimental subjects were asked to count the number of squares on a rotating on-screen cube and to perform other tasks. The subjects were then asked to rate the difficulty of the tasks, and their ratings agreed with the work intensity detected by the FNIRS system up to 83 percent of the time.
- There are other means of reading brain activity than direct neural contact via pins. The first and most common is electro encephalo-graphy (EEG) where electrodes are placed against the scalp are used to pick up brain signals. However, this approach is not nearly as accurate as direct neural contact and can only pick up blurry, weak readings.
- The other, much newer and much more accurate non-invasive technology is magneto encephalography (MEG) but is also more equipment intensive. Using MEG requires a room filled with superconducting magnets and giant super-cooling helium tanks surrounded by shielded walls.