This mind-controlled concept car lets you switch radio stations just thinking about it


BCIs are systems that convert brain activity into signals that software can understand.

Image: Daimler

Forget about stuck control buttons, counter-intuitive switches, and even errant voice assist: Mercedes-Benz is now working on a concept car in which you can dim radio stations, dim lights just thinking about it Or the controls can change navigation.

The automotive giant presented the idea at the International Motor Show in Germany. Mercedes proposes to use brain-computer interface (BCI) technology to connect the human brain to its cars, so that drivers can trigger actions in the vehicle without saying or touching anything.

BCIs are systems that can translate brain activity, thanks to electrical impulses generated when we think, into signals that software can understand.

See: If we put computers in our brains, strange things can happen in our brains

The technique is largely an extension of what doctors are doing with electroencephalograms (EEGs), which monitor electrical activity in the brain as a way to detect nerve problems. The difference between the systems is that the BCIs then feed those signals into an algorithm that converts them into computer commands – meaning that a user could, in theory, control the computer with the power of their thoughts.

Mercedes has integrated a BCI platform developed by neurotechnology startup NextMind into a concept car called the Vision AVTR that was presented at the show. Attendees were able to test out the technology, which comes in the form of a brain-sensing wearable that can be head-mounted with an adjustable headband.

Electrodes on the headband record the user’s brain activity and establish a direct connection to the vehicle after a one-minute calibration. To optimize the generation of brain signals, various functions on a car’s dashboard are tagged with recognizable, graphic light signals, which stimulate neuronal activity.

The BCI device continuously measures the user’s brain waves, and can identify which light points the passenger is focusing their full attention on – in other words, which trigger the most neuronal activity. This is then analyzed by NextMind’s algorithms, which turn neural signals into a command, such as selecting a parking spot or turning a car into night mode.

“NextMind’s groundbreaking technology opens up new possibilities for user interaction and engagement by instantly translating brain signals from the user’s visual cortex into computer commands,” said NextMind’s founder and CEO Sid Kouder.

The Vision AVTR is only a concept car, which means Mercedes is still far from deploying the BCI in its commercial vehicles. First introduced last year, the Vision AVTR reflects Mercedes’ engineers’ vision of the distant future, and showcases technologies that are still nascent.

For example, the vehicle has no steering wheel, but a central console that launches when it detects a passenger’s heart rate and breathing. Hand Raising projects a menu selection onto the palm of the hand, so that users can select certain actions; The outside world is shown in 3D graphics inside the car, and includes the magnetic field or ultraviolet light of the environment.

“The Vision AVTR (…) is the perfect concept to test and further develop BCI applications,” said Marcus Schaefer, COO of Mercedes-Benz Cars. “This concept effectively represents the future of vehicle mobility.”

It remains, acknowledging that in-vehicle BCI platforms will not be available in the near future, Mercedes is counting on the rapid developments taking place in the field.

Technology is progressing, especially to help advance medical discoveries. For example, BCI can help people with physical disabilities become more independent by establishing a lost connection between brain waves and muscles, helping people with nerve damage to move their arms or legs.

See: Soon your brain will be connected to the computer. Can we stop hackers from entering?

Tesla founder Elon Musk has also brought technology into the limelight by investing heavily in Neuralink, a startup developing brain implants that could let users control computers with their brains. The business recently released a video of a monkey named Pager, with chips attached to it, allowing it to play a game of pong with its brain. Musk previously said that the main purpose of Neuralink will be to help people with neurological conditions that are preventing them from controlling hand and arm movements.

“Brain-computer interfaces are going to impact every aspect of our lives and bring incredible benefits to improving our world. We are excited to partner with industry leaders like Mercedes-Benz to turn these future possibilities into realities.” Find out ways to change that,” NextMind said. Cowder.

However, as technology develops, so will the opportunity to hack dangerously. Developers of BCI interfaces could potentially sit on extremely sensitive data: It’s one thing to leak email logs, but it’s one thing to lose the idea logs entirely to hackers. So, something to be aware of, even if brain-connected cars are still some way in the future.

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