Fancy having your brain scanned and emotions controlled while driving? Jan 10 2018 Electroblog Print Article Jan 10 2018 Electroblog The other week I wrote about what I consider the nightmarish scenario of your car being able to respond and manoeuvre according to your thoughts and emotions. Thankfully, the “BrainMobile” car wont happen for at least another ten years. However, research into electroencephalography, a technique that records electrical activity of the human brain, could mean we see the dawn of the BrainMobile happening that much quicker. In a recent demonstration of the technique, nanoelectronics and digital technologies specialists Imec showed its prototype of an electroencephalogram (EEG) headset that can measure emotions and cognitive brain functions. And this says the developer is a significant breakthrough in emotion measurement that could have long-term implications for such applications as gaming, learning and brain therapy. However, brain scanning using electroencephalography is nothing new. German physiologist and psychiatrist Hans Berger recorded the first human EEG in 1924 and since then the technique has become far more sophisticated, although it still has strengths and weaknesses. One of its problems is that it is much better at harvesting electrical signals from parts of the brain that are nearer the skull. On the plus side it is very fast. EEGs can detect changes in milliseconds, which is good because electrical changes in a single brain cell can take as little as 1millisecond to cross a single neuron. Until now EEG brain scans have been used to diagnose medical conditions such as epilepsy or insomnia. More recently, scans have been introduced to detect emotions and this opens application opportunities way beyond the medical field. However, one of the technical hurdles this latest EEG approach has to jump relates to how the EEG electrodes are placed on the subject’s scalp and how they can be made both comfortable and reliable for considerable lengths of time. Let’s face it, would you want to spend your driving hours with uncomfortable electrotrodes either fastened or embedded in your scalp? Of course not. Enter a further company into the EEG development arena. Datwyler. The Imec EEG headset uses dry-electrodes from Datwyler and software to monitor frontal EEG signals in real-time that are related to a person’s emotional state. The system contains a headphone jack and is Bluetooth compatible. This allows music to be played to the wearer of the electrodes and this say the developers can influence the emotions of the person wearing the headset. So a spot of peaceful classical melody at the traffic lights could make those traffic light “Grand Prix” starts a thing of the past. Achieving this level of influence over the wearer’s emotions required the development of some pretty smart algorithms by the University of Osaka. According to Professor Masayuki Numao from the Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research at Osaka University this so-called Brain Melody system was achieved by combining model-based emotion recognition with techniques for real-time music composition and musical expression. So will EEG be helping to make the dreaded BrainMobile car a reality? Quite possibly, but in my view not anytime soon. But just think how much the car insurance companies would love it. They could demand a clause in your car insurance that stipulates you only listen to peaceful, and therefore accident-reducing music while driving. Of course, it goes with out saying, those drivers preferring a spot of “get your motor running” from Steppenwolf while out cruising would be obliged to pay higher insurance premiums! By Paul WhytockPaul Whytock is European Editor for Electropages. He has reported extensively on the electronics industry in Europe, the United States and the Far East for over twenty years. Prior to entering journalism he worked as a design engineer with Ford Motor Company at locations in England, Germany, Holland and Belgium.