Science fiction writers have written for years about brain-computer links. Being able to “plug in” directly to add memory or knowledge, or “read” stored information is an appealing, if currently improbable, concept.
We may not be at the point where we can plug in some extra memory chips before a big exam, but one company, Wicab, Inc., is testing a device to feed information to the brain using, oddly enough, the tongue. The initial target of Wicab’s “BrainPort” technology is to create substitute vision processing for individuals who lack that ability. The initial resolution of the vision system is rather low – a 144 pixel array, according to their website. (Your computer screen probably has a million pixels or more; even your cell phone is likely to have many thousands of pixels.) Still, early tests show promising results.
As mentioned in the Positive Technology Journal, though, there are other applications for the technology. The BrainPort technology could “decrease the risk of sensory overload in human-machine interactions by providing a parallel and supplemental channel for information flow to the brain.”
The marketing implications of this work are limited at best. Then again, with Google’s effort to both dominate and monetize just about every new technology, perhaps we’ll soon see “GooglePort” – a brain interface that lets you surf the web, find information, etc., all provided at no charge if you download a few direct-to-brain advertising messages while you are hooked up.