Thursday, April 27, 2006

Brain Scan Passwords?

In a follow-up to yesterday's post on mindjacks, Wired has an article discussing the possibilities of using brain waves for authentication. What I find most interesting is the statement (highlighted below) about biofeedback between monkeys and machines. Not only do we program the machines, but the machines begin to program us.

[Professor Jacques Vidal of UCLA] is more optimistic about a simpler form of mind reading, in which the computer provides a stimulus, then measures the brain's response. Such "event-related responses," or ERPs, to color flashes or specific sounds tend to produce brain signals that are different with each individual, but nearly identical when repeated on the same person. "ERPs could be used for biometric identification," says Vidal.

Such a technique could even benefit from the adaptability of our brains. Instead of trying to passively recognize a thought, like in the ideal implementation, a system could rely somewhat on the user deliberately learning how to generate the right brain pattern, using feedback from the machine as a guide.

In experiments with monkeys, researchers found that the animal and computer can effectively train each other. "As the animal learns to control the machine, both the neurons in his brain and the algorithm that uses those signals change," says Reza Shadmehr, professor of biomedical engineering and neuroscience at John Hopkins University. "Together, the coupled system converges to a successful decoding." |Wired (emphasis added)|

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