With the recent and mediated works on electroencephalogram (EEG) Brain-computer interface, I was quite intrigued by the fact that brain signals were only exploited to move bionic arms (cf Professor Kevin Warwick’s work) or cursors on graphical interfaces. That’s why I decided to investigate and came across a very special brain signal called P300. This brain signal is unconsciously activated every time an object is recognised as millions of neurons fire at the same time. I think this study was worth reading as the way they use EEG is unlike anything I have previously seen.
As in most high tech domains, Darpa is involved and is attempting to find military purpose for those innovations. In enemy territory, some military drivers are exceptionally skilled at detecting Improvised Explosive Devices on the road. This ability is not really a “sixth sense” as soldiers call it, but results from the expertise in recognising suspect signs. P300 got its name from the fact that the signal appears 300ms after stimulation. However, it takes several seconds for a person to be conscious of what is being seen. That is where EGG becomes useful, by simply recognising the signal, it is possible to prevent a danger before the brain has time to process it.
In reality, the system shows series of pictures of the road, taken strategically thanks to an algorithm. The participant will try identifying threats in those pictures and in case a P300 is fired, it will instantly alarm the people around, permitting to save several seconds and maybe people’s live.
The most interesting thing in this tool is actually that the brain is here used to process data as no technology can equal yet our brain power for those kinds of tasks. Even though everything is not clear in the recognition process, the brain is used as a black box system where we only care about the inputs and the outputs.