We’re Close to Getting Mind-Reading Computers
“You are not getting in the car with that thing on your head.”
I was waiting outside the train station, a Muse headband wrapped securely around my forehead. My wife was amused but insistent.
“You are obliterating my calm,” I said serenely as I gently removed the device.
“It looks like something you’d wear to a Grateful Dead concert,” the 15-year-old in the passenger seat chimed in, before admitting she had only a vague idea of what The Grateful Dead was. “Something from the ’70s, anyway.” She said “the ’70s” the way most adults would say “the 13th century.”
I may have looked like a dork from an ancient era, but this was no ordinary headband. Inside the Muse were five extremely sensitive sensors to measure my brain activity (such as it is), designed to help teach me how to soothe my overactive mind.
Muse is one of the first commercially available gadgets to bridge the gap between our brains and our devices. It’s a $300 EEG monitor that doesn’t make you look like an escapee from a mental ward.
It’s also an important early step toward something much bigger: The ability to control objects — your phone, computer, car stereo, game console, lights inside your house, and more — using only your thoughts.
Zen and now
Muse’s initial goal is far less ambitious. Using a game-like mobile app called Calm, it measures your brain waves and teaches you how to reduce stress.
I started by slipping the headband over my forehead and behind my ears, while trying not to think about how much I looked like Olivia Newton-John in the “Let’s Get Physical” video.
On the left: Ariel Garten, CEO of InteraXon, maker of the Muse headband. On the right, the saucy Aussie. Who says the ’80s are dead?