A new brain-computer-interface technology could turn our brains into automatic image-identifying machines that operate faster than human consciousness.
Researchers at Columbia University are combining the processing power of the human brain with computer vision to develop a novel device that will allow people to search through images ten times faster than they can on their own.
Darpa, or the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is funding research into the system with hopes of making federal agents’ jobs easier. The technology would allow hours of footage to be very quickly processed, so security officers could identify terrorists or other criminals caught on surveillance video much more efficiently.
The “cortically coupled computer vision system,” known as C3 Vision, is the brainchild of professor Paul Sajda, director of the Laboratory for Intelligent Imaging and Neural Computing at Columbia University. He received a one-year, $758,000 grant from Darpa for the project in late 2005.
The system harnesses the brain’s well-known ability to recognize an image much faster than the person can identify it.
“Our human visual system is the ultimate visual processor,” says Sajda. “We are just trying to couple that with computer vision techniques to make searching through large volumes of imagery more efficient.”
The brain emits a signal as soon as it sees something interesting, and that “aha” signal can be detected by an electroencephalogram, or EEG cap. While users sift through streaming images or video footage, the technology tags the images that elicit a signal, and ranks them in order of the strength of the neural signatures. Afterwards, the user can examine only the information that their brains identified as important, instead of wading through thousands of images.
This is only the beginning of our coming mind-machine merger.
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