A team of South African scientists have managed to hook up a human brain to the internet in real time for the first time. Dubbed Brainternet, it is a significant first step toward a plethora of brain-controlled IoT applications.
The researchers used a tiny Raspberry Pi computer paired with an EEG, a device that receives electrical information from electrodes placed on a person’s head. The device sent information instantly to a website, where any person or device was able to access it in real time.
The Brainternet team is led by Adam Pantanowitz, electrical engineer, researcher and lecturer at Wits University in Johannesburg.
What is Brainternet?
In a press release, Pantanowitz explained:
“Brainternet is a new frontier in brain-computer interface systems […] Brainternet seeks to simplify a person’s understanding of their own brain and the brains of others; it does this through continuous monitoring of brain activity as well as enabling some interactivity.”
In other words, while the Brainternet discovery is still limited to a mere display of brain activity, other researchers around the globe are working on turning EEG electrical signals into actionable commands that computers and other internet-enabled devices can understand and follow, called brain-computer interfaces (BCI).
Pairing a BCI with a Brainternet-like device is the step forward that will begin erasing the boundaries between the human brain and machines, allowing us to envision a very near future where our knowledge and physical reach can expand as we have instant access to the internet.
As mobile internet becomes more widespread and with the proliferation of companies working in interfaces for human interaction like Google Glass, Oculus Rift and other virtual and augmented technologies, it is not a stretch to envision that a tight integration of thoughts and machines will be common within our lifetimes.
Wikipedia, news, social media and all kinds of online content are getting closer to becoming seamlessly integrated with the human brain’s electrical activity. Met someone you like? Find them on Instagram or Facebook right away. Met a Silicon Valley entrepreneur or talent? Connecting to Lifograph would give you all the relevant info you need to decide whether they are good fit for your company or not—in a matter of seconds.
Furthermore, as we move on from the IoT to the Tactile Internet, the flow of real-time information from your brain to internet-connected devices could get your coffee brewing with a thought from bed, or enable a surgeon to control a robotic arm and save a child in Africa.
The possibilities are as endless, as are the profound changes BCI and Brainternet-like technologies imply for our tech-dependent existence.