MIT’s Brainput boosts your brain power by offloading multitasking to a computer

Using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), which is basically a portable, poor man’s version of fMRI, Brainput measures the activity of your brain. This data is analyzed, and if Brainput detects that you’re multitasking, the software kicks in and helps you out. In the case of the Brainput research paper, Solovey and her team set up a maze with two remotely controlled robots. The operator, equipped with fNIRS headgear, has to navigate both robots through the maze simultaneously, constantly switching back and forth between them. When Brainput detects that the driver is multitasking, it tells the robots to use their own sensors to help with navigation. Overall, with Brainput turned on, operator performance improved — and yet they didn’t generally notice that the robots were partially autonomous.

That is pretty damn cool. The idea that something can notice that I’m stressed, overtaxed or just generally not making the best decisions that I could be, then take over and maybe not do as well as I could at my best, but do a passable job rings really true to me.

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