'Mind Reading' Helmet Reads EEG To See If Wearer Recognizes Faces Or Objects

From our search history to our cell phone records to tagged photos online, very little in our 21st-century lives is left private -- at least to the likes of Google, AT&T, or Facebook. But tech is making headway in invading one of the last sanctuaries of privacy. Our minds themselves.

That's at least the goal of Veritas Scientific, a new company trying to use an established technology to do something straight out of science fiction: mind reading. Or at least read into the part of the mind that recognizes things.

According to the magazine IEEE Spectrum, the firm is developing a tight-fitting helmet with metal brush sensors poking out of its underside and onto a user's scalp for the purpose of reading his or her electroencephalogram, or EEG -- a measurement of electrical activity on a person's head.

EEG isn't a new technology; it's been around for decades. Just last year IBM predicted that EEG would be one of five technology to change the world in the next five years. But previous it would take special gels and a tangle of wires to hook someone up to an EEG. Vertias' helmet would expedite a reading -- specifically looking to identify ne'er-do-wells.

The idea behind the device is that certain electrical patterns in the brain are associated with recognizing faces or objects, so the technology could be used to determine if someone does or does not recognize something. When a screen the device puts in front of a user's eyes flashes images, it will be able to tell if the person remembers them based on spikes in brain activity. This isn't so much the sort mind reading supposedly done by psychics, but more akin to existing techniques, such as heartbeats and facial expression, that lie detectors use to figure out a fib from the truth.

Veritas CEO Eric Elbot told IEEE Spectrum that the device could have potential wartime applications, helping troops determine friend from foe; though he also expressed concerns about the government using such technology.

"Certainly it’s a potential tool for evil. If only the government has this device, it would be extremely dangerous," Elbot said, per IEEE Spectrum.

EEG, though, has potential uses outside of law enforcement. These could be anything from headsets wore at home to control household appliances to devices that give the speechless the ability to talk through a computer.

The technology needs some perfecting before it's used widely, however. Veritas' website claims about 80 percent accuracy, which strikes us as much too low for high-stakes situations like court. IEEE Spectrum notes that a subject's mood or even ambient noises could affect a reading.

What do you think of it? To read more about the science behind the helmet check out IEEE Spectrum.

[Hat tip, Computerworld]