16 March 2006

Sensitive computing

Microsoft have demonstrated a prototype brain-computer interface: using sensors a computer can monitor its user’s brain state (relaxed, focused on a numeric task, engaged in imaginative thinking etc.) and then modify the options it presents to the user accordingly. Interesting idea, particularly for the games world Microsoft competes in, and where wearing a headset (to house the sensors) is so much part of the experience.

With increased uptake of VoIP, headsets are also becoming a standard part of desktop computing equipment, so perhaps the need for sensors wouldn’t be a barrier to potential users carrying out everyday computing tasks. But I wonder about the utility of sensitive computing in Microsoft’s software suite. I already wrestle with some of their assumptions about my intentions, on the basis of a few key strokes (there are one or two automatic formatting functions in Word that, in spite of repeated attempts, I still haven’t managed to turn off). So it doesn’t make me optimistic about their ability to give helpful responses to fluctuations in my brain state (unless my increased stress levels could trigger the computer to turn off all automatic formatting).

No comments:

Post a Comment