US NSF funds 'mind-reading' technology

National Science Foundation working on a computer that can read your mind - but can it tell when you are angry at it?

The US National Science Foundation is funding research that could enable computers to respond to your levels of frustration or boredom. In other words, we're talking about "mind-reading" technology.

Tufts University researchers are exploiting near-infrared spectroscopy technology that uses light to pick up on your emotional cues by monitoring brain blood flow.

Of course, for now you need to wear a funky headband to make it work (the headband "uses laser diodes to send near-infrared light through the forehead at a relatively shallow depth -- only two to three centimeters -- to interact with the brain's frontal lobe," according to Tufts.)

"New evaluation techniques that monitor user experiences while working with computers are increasingly necessary," said Robert Jacob, computer science professor and researcher, in a statement. "One moment a user may be bored, and the next moment, the same user may be overwhelmed. Measuring mental workload, frustration and distraction is typically limited to qualitatively observing computer users or to administering surveys after completion of a task, potentially missing valuable insight into the users' changing experiences."

Jacob is working with Sergio Fantini, biomedical engineering professor at Tufts, on the project funded by a US$445,000 grant from the NSF.

The Tufts group will present early test results at the Association for Computing Machinery symposium on user interface software and technology, to be held October 7 through 10 in the US.

More from Tufts here.

Mind-reading technologies aren't as rare as you might think. Earlier this year, a company announced a special helmet that enables video game players to communicate via their brainwaves with games.

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