Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

  • Justin Saglio
  • Rewriting Life

    Brain-Controlled Typing May Be the Killer Advance That AR Needs

    Why type when you can just think?

    Clicking, typing, and swiping are the norm in 2017. But to streamline the way we use virtual and augmented reality, a startup called Neurable wants to replace all of that with simply thinking.

    “Every major computational technology has needed an evolution in interaction,” Ramses Alcaide, cofounder and CEO of the firm, explained at MIT Technology Review’s EmTech conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Wednesday. “When it came to the computer, we had the graphical user interface and the mouse. With smartphones, we went to capacitive touch screens. And now that we’re entering augmented reality, we need to start thinking about more natural ways of interacting—your hand, your eye, and even your brain.”

    That, says Alcaide, could make the vision of augmented-reality headsets genuinely useful, allowing wearers to influence what they see without fumbling for a keypad or controller. That’s why Neurable has been working on developing brain-control systems for VR for over a year now. It uses a headset loaded with dry electrodes that sit on the scalp and track brain activity. The firm’s software analyzes the brain’s activity to work out what its wearer wants to do. A couple of months ago, the company showed off a snazzy VR game that uses the technology to let you move objects with your mind.

    But that kind of thing is not the company’s true goal. “The killer interaction is not something exciting; it’s something boring,” Alcaide said at the conference. “It’s something as simple as typing, sweeping, pinch-and-zoom, and clicking.”

    To that point, he showed off of an alpha version of Neurable’s first typing tool. The current speed record for typing via brain-computer interface is eight words per minute, but that uses an invasive implant to read signals from a person’s brain. “We’re working to beat that record, even though we’re using a noninvasive technology,” explains Alcaide. “We’re getting about one letter per second, which is still fairly slow, because it’s an early build. We think that in the next year we can further push that forward.”

    He says that by introducing AI into the system, Neurable should be able to reduce the delay between letters and also predict what a user is trying to type. And that might make our interactions with technology smoother than ever.

    Couldn't make it to EmTech Next to meet experts in AI, Robotics and the Economy?

    Go behind the scenes and check out our video
    More from Rewriting Life

    Reprogramming our bodies to make us healthier.

    Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.
    • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

      {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

      Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

      See details+

      Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

      Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

      The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

      Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

      10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

      Ad-free website experience

    /3
    You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.