Seeing emotions just the start for brain-reading technology

Technology that can interpret moods and visualize them using augmented reality is just the first step in a promising new area of ​​brain research.

In an apartment in Melbourne, Australia, Charlie can see her roommate Robbie’s feelings. It’s not Robbie’s facial expressions or movements that help Charlie understand – his face is obscured by augmented reality goggles – but instead swarms of colorful patterns swirl around Robbie, moving with him, changing color and shape. Charlie can see the swarms through their own augmented reality set: both use Neo-Noumena, brain recognition software.

Brain-machine interfaces have recently been used as assistive devices to restore mobility and communication to people with various forms of paralysis. They have enabled humans to control robotic limbs, wheelchairs, and computer keyboards, all with the power of their minds.

But newer generations of brain-computer interfaces use artificial intelligence pattern recognition to extract more complex information from the brain, such as B. emotions to decode.

Neo-Noumena, a headset developed by researchers at Monash University, reads a person’s emotions by detecting electrical activity on their scalp. When users see themselves or other users through the headset’s glasses, they are surrounded by colorful, repeating patterns called fractals. The fractals move and change with a user’s emotions, like an aura around them, so everyone can understand them in real time. Brain-sensing systems can help teams understand their emotions and work together more efficiently.

When study participants took the system home to use in pairs, the Monash researchers didn’t know how they were going to use it. Participants immediately began exploring the possibilities of using the system in emotionally charged activities to see how it would transform their fractal crushes, discovering new things about themselves and their emotions in the process.

Technology could one day help people with autism in social situations; Improving brain conditions that resist other forms of treatment, and perhaps even creating a connected human consciousness.

Charlie and Robbie became better at regulating their emotions as a couple as they became more aware of their emotional patterns and reactions over time. Interestingly, the transparency and constant availability of each user’s emotional state led to the emergence of unexpected social phenomena. Half of each couple began extrapolating information about the environment by interpreting each other’s emotions. Another pair of participants found that they could tell how good their partner’s hand was at a card game without speaking.

Virtual reality and augmented reality devices are transforming many types of work and play.

Brain-machine interfaces that can read emotions are closer than some think. A few commercial products are already available that target meditation training, sleep tracking, productivity, and gaming. A growing open source community has also emerged, sharing tools and lessons for enthusiasts to make the technology more accessible.

But the legal and ethical risks of “mind-reading” technology must be addressed before it becomes mainstream. Only a handful of jurisdictions have passed “neuro-rights” laws to protect a person’s right to keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves. The law is struggling to keep up with the privacy risks of current technologies, but even more, egregious data breaches may still be possible. The ability to read minds as if they were spoken word or text is still far beyond our understanding — at least without invasive surgery — but recent studies have shown that identifying information can be extracted from brain-machine signals.

Emerging “bidirectional” interfaces that promise to modify brain activity through electrical or magnetic impulses further compound these risks. This research is still in its infancy and is limited to evoking perceptions of flashes of light, gross limb movements, and mild stimulation of large parts of the outer layer of the brain, but it may one day be possible to send and receive targeted, precise messages, defying our legal notions of autonomy and individual personality would change completely.

Despite these risks, the potential good is even more profound. Soon, devices like Neo-Noumena could help people with conditions that can disrupt individual and interpersonal interpretation of emotions, like autism. Conditions like these can make social interaction extremely difficult.

Similarly, technologies that “write” the brain, such as deep brain stimulation and transcranial magnetic stimulation, already show promise in treating seriously disabling mental illnesses such as treatment-resistant depression.

The promise of this technology hints at possibilities even science fiction writers would struggle to write. With brain-machine interfaces, we may very well be able to connect our minds in vast networks of deep empathy and challenge any preconceived notions of what makes us “human.”

Names changed to comply with study ethics.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)