June 22, 2007
Hitachi develops brain-machine interface
Forget the clicker: A new technology in Japan could let you control electronic devices without lifting a finger simply by reading brain activity. The “brain-machine interface” developed by Hitachi Inc. analyzes slight changes in the brain’s blood flow and translates brain motion into electric signals. Underlying Hitachi’s brain-machine interface is a technology called optical topography, which sends a small amount of infrared light through the brain’s surface to map out changes in blood flow. Hitachi demonstrated this technology at its Advanced Research Laboratory in Hatoyama near Tokyo. A cap to be worn has optical fibres connected to a mapping device which in turn, to a toy train set via a control computer and motor. The host performs some simple calculations in his head and the train springs to action, apparently indicating activity in the brain’s frontal cortex, which handles problem solving.
A key advantage to Hitachi’s technology is that sensors don’t have to physically enter the brain. Earlier technologies developed by U.S. companies like Neural Signals Inc. required implanting a chip under the skull.