by Marshall Kirkpatrick
University of Wisconsin-Madison biomedical engineering doctoral student Adam Wilson has successfully tested a “brain wave monitor” to Twitter publishing interface, allowing him to compose a message merely by thinking and publish it to the arguably too-popular microblogging service.
Either the gates of Hell have begun to open or this is a grad student who really knows how to publicize his work by riding the bandwagon of popular culture. Both are probably true.
We get a fair number of press releases from Universities about graduate research and we usually don’t write about them. This one was freakish enough that we decided to.
Technically, what Wilson did was come up with an interface combining an Electroencephalogram, or brain wave monitor, with an on screen keyboard for selecting letters. The system lights up each key on the keyboard but is able to notice a difference in brain activity when the desired letter for input is lit. Wilson compares it to clicking through multiple letters when texting on a mobile phone.
Once you’ve found a new way to input text – what are you going to do with it? Use it to Twitter, of course!
Clearly, there’s some gimmickry going on in the news of Wilson’s interface. Who knows if this is better or worse than saying that a technology is developed to assist physically disabled people when it’s really going to be used by the military? Wilson does say that the technology will be helpful for people with active brains but immobile bodies. Now they’ll be able to Twitter, among other things, he says. Fair enough.
Here at ReadWriteWeb we’re proud to have the #1 Google search result for the phrase “Internet brain implant” for our post The Internet Brain Implant: Why We Should Say No. Today could be a good time to go re-read that post. New interfaces are cool, but the sanctity of free, independent thought is very important. Wilson’s work is no brain implant, but it does seem like an important thing to check in with ourselves about.
To be fair, Twitter is clearly a revolutionary technology that we use throughout every day. Anyone who wants access to that tool ought to have it and Wilson’s work may increase access.
We presume many more uses for his work will be found if proven commercially viable. For now, though, we can remember today as the day we learned about the man who Tweeted with his mind.