Google has made wearable technology chic with Google Glass, pairs of which recently landed in the hands of 8,000 lucky techies who won the chance through a contest to purchase an early test pair for $1,500 each. Consumer electronics manufacturer Foxconn will build the multimedia, Internet-connected glasses, which tether to wearers' mobile phones, in the United States.
Aside from consumer wearable devices, Google has also brought awareness to other high-tech devices, such as computers on wristbands, and headbands that can read someone's brainwaves through EEG sensors.
The EEG sensors in “thought controlled computing company” Interaxon's headband allow a person wearing it to move images on a computer screen with a thought by sensing brainwaves and turning them into actions. With a background in neuroscience, Interaxon CEO and Founder Ariel Garten began working at a research lab about a decade ago, focusing on music.
That work turned into Muse, the brain sensing headband, which has sensors on the forehead and behind the ears. It lets the wearer interact with content using their mind. The EEG sensors read and amplify the brain's very sensitive electrical signals before parsing them into control interactions and self-discovery brain waves.
Garten told me building a light headband that included four sensors and wireless technology became the most difficult part of designing the product. The demonstration I saw identifies a number on a computer screen of the wearer's brainwave beta and alpha states, separating the person's level of focus and relaxation.
The first Interaxon product, which shows brain activity and provides exercises to improve cognitive functions and reduces stress, hits the market later this year.
In the future, Garten said, people will control technology using their minds. That means home appliances will require sensors and WiFi connectivity. “People will use the technology to control appliances like toasters, and home electronics systems,” she said, suggesting a thought could start a blender blending or turn on the music in a home stereo system.
Mind over matter
Forrester Research Analyst Sarah Rotman Epps thinks the technology's main use points to people with physical disabilities, but consumer applications could emerge in the future. In a report titled “Smart Body, Smart World,” Rotman Epps tells us how wearable technology will power the next wave of growth and innovation in personal computing. She points to Beam Technologies, a Rock Health startup, which recently launched a toothbrush that syncs via Bluetooth with your phone to record brushing behavior.
Rotman Epps sees a future in consumer devices, but I believe we'll also see the apps in electronics manufacturing and distribution. What if I want to build a manufacturing facility or a distribution center using brainwave technology? What would it look like, and what type of applications could I build for these facilities using brainwave technology? Do I need to consider backscatter for cross-signal radio waves?
While that move would provide electronics companies new opportunities to support emerging consumer technologies, how could brainwave technology benefit electronics manufacturing facilities and distribution centers? When thoughts turn into digital messages, robotic packing arms reach out for semiconductors and capacitors to fill reference design orders. The sensors in Garten's headband would let employees run manufacturing facility and product distribution lines with a thought, either slowing or speeding production, or redirecting traffic.
- What type of applications do you see in the future for consumers, manufacturing, and distribution?
- What are the technical challenges for developing a world where people control electronics with brainwaves?