Japanese researchers develop mini brain wave measuring device

Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Tsukuba (just outside Tokyo) is well-known for its work in robotics, but the institute is active in other fields as well. It has now announced [JP] a mini brain wave measuring device that can help handicapped people convey up to 512 “messages” just with the power of their brains.

Wearing a skull cap with eight EEG sensors to monitor brain activity, all that the person in question needs to do is to look at a computer screen that displays a menu with a number choices and think about what he or she desires in that moment. AIST classified the 512 possible menu items into different categories, enabling users to make rather detailed choices.

For example, it’s not only possible to say “I’m hungry” but also to say which drink you want and combine that with the right honorific expression (i.e. “I would like to eat Japanese food”, as shown in the picture below). The choice made is then displayed on the screen with a combination of text and pictures. The system, in its current form, has a success rate of 60%-90% after users make a choice, with a 2-3 second time lag.

The AIST device is sized at just 5.5cmx3.3cm and weighs only 24g. The researchers expect to have a commercial version of their system ready by 2013, with hopes to achieve a price level of about $1,000 by then.