In this post I explain one of the projects which I have been working on for a year and a half more or less, in the theoretical, conceptual and research phases, and which experimental phase I've started a few weeks ago. Some close people, family and friends know a little bit more about what this project is about, but most of my friends, some relatives and acquaintances are still unaware.
Mental computing, is how I have decided to call this project which main objective is to provide the medium to human beings by which they can communicate and control any smart device using their mind and thoughts through a brain-computer interface.
Currently, there are several devices that serve as brain-computer interface which allow us to analyze the electrical activity of the brain while we think, process information, feel, among other things ... Mostly, those devices come with a set of programs that also help us to handle this information directly and almost in real time, these programs also allow us to connect a certain pattern of thought or electrical brain activity according to what we are thinking, to an action on the computer, for example: once having the device in place, let's say that we have decided to train the action to go forward, the program begins to record patterns and tendencies of whatever is being thought at that moment, whether it is being thought about an object moving forward or that it's being mentally counted from 1 to 10, the program will always associate patterns and tendencies to actions on the computer.
The problem of the approach explained in the previous paragraph about associating actions with patterns and tendencies according to certain electrical brain activity is that we are not really understanding what it's being thought, but instead, we are just making a connection between pattern-action or trend-action, for example: continuing with the training of the action to go forward, let's say that we started the training but instead of imagining an object moving forward, we start to think that we are eating ice cream... In any case, the final result of the system will be to associate pattern-action without understanding or discerning if we were really thinking about the action being trained.
The approach that this project has is mainly based on understanding what it's being thought, and then associating the meaning of thought with its corresponding action on the machine, for example: if I think and visualize an object moving upwards, then the result of this training would be the action to move upwards, or on the other hand, if I imagine a person or an object jumping, the result of the training would be the action to jump, and so on. The previous examples would be the most basic actions that could be trained, but the possibilities of actions are unlimited from the point of view of human thoughts, and from the physical point of view they would be limited only by the virtual and physical capacities that the machine can provide.
Each human brain has a unique signature, we can think that this brain signature is similar to some unique identification factors which we are already familiar with, those being: fingerprints, iris recognition, personal DNA, among other methods. Achieving a unified pattern that serves as a common point for the vast majority of people following the pattern-action approach followed by traditional brain-computer interface devices, is a great challenge, due to the fact that each brain has been wired (neuronally speaking) differently in each person, therefore the pattern-action trained for one person, will not work for another since the electrical activity is different in each person for a similar action. Now, the question would be: How to solve this problem of the unified pattern in the brain/mind of human beings? The answer to this question is found in the next paragraph.
Brain unified pattern or BUP for its acronym in English, is how I have decided to call the method which focuses on the shared pattern used by all brains (initially people's brain) while thinking and imagining, I say "initially people's brain" since in its initial phase it will be oriented towards people but later it can also be expanded towards other entities within the animal kingdom.
One part of the experimental phase of this project is based on checking and validating through the scientific method, the set of hypotheses and theories in which the unified brain pattern (BUP) is based upon. One of these hypotheses is based on the idea that human beings share a common meaning, regardless of the native language being spoken, for example: the word "Hola" in Spanish, "Hello" in English, "Tere" in Estonian, "Bonjour" in French and so on, they all share the mental meaning which is to greet or the willingness to salute and which ultimately gets manifested or expressed in one way or another depending on the culture of the person, but which form of getting manifested or expressed comes from a common meaning.
To validate and verify the theories and hypotheses on which this project is based upon, a wide range of knowledge is required in different areas, and that is why I count on the help of physician, physicist and scientific friends. Another thing to keep in mind, is that this wide range of knowledge in different areas is in continuous development and research, and that currently there are many questions, doubts, and unknowns that we have not yet been able to solve as species, since the brain and mind belong to the most complex things in everything we know.
The fact that there are many uncertainties, questions and doubts, is something that makes this project not only quite exciting, but it also creates space for a potential impact that this may have on the development and advancement of existing and future technologies and that ultimately gets translated into benefits in people's daily lives. This potential impact is one of the factors for which I have decided to work on this project and also because from a very young age and up to now, I have always loved things that go beyond everything anyone could have imagined, achieved or done about what we currently have, are acquainted to, and know.
I am aware that this project represents a great challenge in many areas, but the fact that it is a great challenge does not prevent me from working on it, but instead, it is something that gives me the courage to do another of the things which make me happy, knowing that I am working on new paths of knowledge by which others can walk through and also knowing that I'll leave a legacy which others can continue.
Currently the dedication from myself to this project is limited to 50% of my free time outside my work as a software engineer, however, I will be publishing updates in subsequent blog posts about the progress of hypotheses and experiments. Feel free to subscribe to the blog's mailing list or follow me on my social networks to be aware of the progress that it's being made.
If you have questions, doubts, concerns or comments feel free to comment or let me know by some method of contact and as soon as possible and if possible I will respond.
Kind regards from Tallinn, Estonia!