Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - How Your World Works -

Pic­ture an old friend’s face. New brain­wave-read­ing tech­nol­ogy could soon con­vert that men­tal im­age of their smile to a dig­i­tal im­age on a com­puter screen. In an ini­tial proof of con­cept, re­searchers at the Univer­sity of Toronto used an elec­troen­cephalo­gram, or EEG, to record brain waves of study par­tic­i­pants while they con­cen­trated on a pic­ture of a face. The lab could then trans­late the brain ac­tiv­ity into a mir­ror im­age of the pic­ture us­ing ma­chine­learn­ing al­go­rithms to map and then in­ter­pret pat­terns and small dif­fer­ences in the elec­tri­cal sig­nals. Sim­i­lar work has been per­formed with room-size func­tional mag­netic res­o­nance imag­ing (FMRI) ma­chines. But the re­search group, led by psy­chol­ogy pro­fes­sor Adrian Nestor, proved the tech­nol­ogy could be used with the far more ac­ces­si­ble and por­ta­ble EEG, which amounts to a cap of elec­trodes wired to a com­puter.

The next step, says Nestor, will be adding ad­vanced fa­cial­recog­ni­tion soft­ware and in­creas­ing the power of the al­go­rithms to re-cre­ate faces, and even­tu­ally mem­o­ries, that aren’t di­rectly in front of par­tic­i­pants. The tech­nol­ogy could act, he says, as a po­lice sketch artist. And be­yond faces, Nestor hopes to de­velop an EEG pro­gram that can help peo­ple oth­er­wise un­able to com­mu­ni­cate, such as pa­tients with ALS or com­plete locked-in syn­drome, share im­ages and words.

Re­searchers found it took the brain an av­er­age of 0.17 sec to form a pic­ture of a face.

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