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Forgot Your Password (Again)? No Problem…

Okay… be honest: How many times do you forget your username and/or password when you log into your accounts or certain websites?

With most of our personal information and accounts stored online these days, it can be challenging to remember multiple passwords for e-mail, bank and trading accounts, healthcare services, media, etc.

Especially when the experts advise against having the same login details for every account.

And it’s a frustrating experience when you’re unable to access your own information without asking the company to send a reminder, or reset your login details.

But help is on the way for memory-challenged folks (myself included)…

EEG: Three Letters to Help the… Er… Forgetful

It’s called the NeuroSky electroencephalogram – or (mercifully) just EEG for short.

Already on the market, the $100 headset is the latest tech-fueled gadget designed to make our lives a bit easier.

And it does so by reading your mind.

No… not in an evil James Bond-villain kind of way.

With NeuroSky’s device already used for gaming, researchers at the University of California-Berkeley have used the system to demonstrate a radical way of accessing our online information.

In short, passwords are out… and pass-thoughts are in.

No More Doing… Just Thinking

Led by Professor John Chuang, the study fitted subjects with the NeuroSky EEG headset and asked them to visualize certain things, or complete tasks simply by thinking about them, rather than actually having to do anything.

The team then recorded the brainwaves captured by the NeuroSky device and recorded them as “pass-thoughts.”

When the users returned later, they again wore the EEG headset and the system was able to identify each person, based on their thoughts.

It wasn’t hit-or-miss, either. The test enjoyed a 99% success rate.

As the study’s authors state: “It’s well understood that authentication systems must strike a balance between security and usability… These findings suggest that designers of EEG-based authentication systems do not have to make a hard choice between security and usability.”

Chuang concludes, “With the embedding of EEG sensors in wireless headsets and other consumer electronics, authenticating users based on their brainwave signals has become a realistic possibility.”

So could we really see this EEG technology in mobile devices soon?

Samsung is on it…

Mind Control Brings Mobility to the Immobile

In addition to all the other innovations and technology that Samsung is working on, the South Korean company’s Emerging Technology Lab is also researching how to incorporate mind control in its mobile devices.

And the technology carries obvious benefits beyond improving the authentication process.

For disabled or paralyzed people, using mind control to access e-mail and other vital accounts is a significant step toward greater independence.

Using the Galaxy Note 10.1 and EEG technology, Samsung is working with the electrical engineering department at the University of Texas (Dallas) on how to use mind control to perform a variety of functions. This includes opening programs and selecting songs in a playlist.

Similar to the Berkeley study, users wore EEG caps fitted with electrodes and the researchers monitored brainwaves that occur in response to seeing visual patterns. The results showed that by thinking about what function the user wanted to perform, the device would respond.

Insoo Kim, Samsung’s head researcher on the project, says users could make selections once every five seconds or so. The accuracy rate ranged between 80% and 95%.

There are challenges, though…

Hey, Check Out My Electrode Cap!

First, researchers need to make sure the technology works correctly and consistently.

Second, EEG sensors are kind of… well, for want of a better word… crude.

I mean, we’re not going to walk around with electrodes and wires strapped to our heads. Many EEG systems also feature “wet gel” electrodes, which adds to the discomfort. And so-called “dry” EEG’s can suffer from poorer signal quality.

Quoted in MIT Tech Review, Roozbeh Jafari, Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at UT-Dallas, and who’s working with Samsung, says that as this technology progresses in terms of reliability and comfort, mind control devices could be “a cap that people wear all day.” His team is currently working on a less intrusive dry EEG device.

IBM (IBM) is also testing the technology using an EEG headset from Emotiv, one of NeuroSky’s rivals. According to the BBC, sending an email via mind control took 20 minutes. This proves the technology is some distance away from becoming mainstream.

However, consider that not so long ago, physically bashing a keypad was the only way to complete tasks on mobile devices and computers. But we now have touchscreens, voice recognition, and motion-sensing technology.

And Samsung’s Galaxy S4 smartphone, which launched earlier this year, allows users to control the screen and programs using eye movement.

Functionality is progressing – and mind control technology represents the next level of person-to-device interaction.

Ahead of the tape,

Martin Denholm

Martin Denholm

, Managing Editor

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