Thought controlled computing: TEDxToronto

Garten of InteraXon Imagine your thoughts could control how you moved a character through a game – not with controllers, but with your brain? What if this could improve focus in children with ADD and eventually replace Ritalin? These are the questions being explored by Ariel Garten and her team at InteraXon, a Toronto-based company that is making waves in thought controlled computing – this is to say, technology controlled by your mind. She spoke at TEDxToronto on how mashing neuroscience with technology can help us better understand ourselves.

Thought controlled computing works by reading brain waves and reacting to the signals sent out by our thoughts. Ariel’s talk focused on how this can help us learn more about ourselves. She argued humanized technology can help us understand why people are sad, tired or happy. It can help us change our personal stories by providing insight on how our mind works and reacts to situations. By learning about our brains, we learn about ourselves.  By understanding ourselves, we no longer need to retreat to find mental peace.

Ariel’s background in neuroscience and psychotherapy mashed with an interest in technology and art.  She originally began creating thought controlled computing art installations with peers, later turning it into a career. Thought controlled computing is a combination of software and hardware that works in a three-step process:

  1. Think: The games InteraXon creates require you to wear a headband with built in sensors that monitor your brain’s activity (don’t worry, it can’t read your actual thoughts!)
  2. Translate: The interface then turns that activity into binary code (zeros and ones) so the computer can understand.
  3. Activate: Translated brainwaves can control anything electric. InteraXon is making this seamless so the connected technology acts like an extension of your body.

Thought controlled computing is a burgeoning and exciting industry, with huge growth potential.  InteraXon used TCC in an installation during the Vancouver Olympics to change the colour of the CN Tower, The Niagara Falls and Parliament Hill from over 3,000 kms away!

In a world first, Toronto's Stone Canoe brought live visuals of Ariel’s brainwaves to the stage during her TEDxToronto speech! As she spoke, the audience was able to see her brainwaves react to her thought patterns and environment. Super neat! If this interests you as a career, start taking courses now in traditional sciences, mathematics psychology and computer sciences.

This week we’re bringing you the top five coolest tech talks from TEDxToronto, an annual showcase of innovative and provoking talks, this year surrounding a theme of ‘redefinition.’ Yesterday we introduced you to Professor Ted Sargent, Canada Research Chair in Nanotechnology at the University of Toronto, who is mashing nanotechnology with the sun to revolutionize energy. Check back tomorrow for #2 in the top 5.

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