Electro activity in the human brain has been studied for over a century and various applications devised that enhance human capabilities in areas where capability may be deficient. In particular thinking ability and motor
control have been beneficiaries of brainware devices (Allison, et al., 2007; da Silva, 1996). Significant progress has been made from the times when invasive surgical operations were required to insert brainware devices inside
a human brain to gain the benefits. Today brainware has become nonintrusive and the latest advancements have dry electrodes that sit on the human head collecting the electro activity of the brain (Wyecoff, et al., 2015).
These are significant technological advancements that provide ease of use and ready access for research and learning. Some are woven inside baseball caps and other socially integrated headgear, and the device acts as an inconspicuous aid for enhanced human capability (Bonaci, et al., 2014; Kroeker, 2011). The headsets are also relatively inexpensive and available for purchase online or in gaming and electronics shops. They can be trained to control a wide variety of applications including, model cars, wheelchairs and games (Wolpaw et al., 2002).
The simplest ones have a single electrode and minimal control functions such as up, down, left, and right; which is sufficient for a toy or a computer game. Other headsets have 14 and more electrodes and a greatly increased
capacity to harness a wider variety of emotions in the human brain and to create a more refined control interface. The use of brainware is relatively simple once it has been trained (Jeunet, et al., 2016; Donoghue, 2002). The training of brainware software is similar to the training of voice activation and transcription software.
The user in each situation has to go through a series of standardised algorithms that link the human variability to the standardised software processes. In brainware that is used for playing a game or controlling a wheelchair, the user has to think and not to move or speak. So for example, if I was training my brainware application to steer a remote control car, I would have to continue to think the word “left” until the electro activity in my brain mapped onto the preprogramed software for turning the car left. Sometimes the matching takes longer than others but providing the user is prepared to concentrate and put in the time to train the software, the effects are created by thinking.
In the radio controlled car situation, once the brain-ware is trained, then it is possible to put on the headset, look at the remote control car (power on in car) and control its movement up to approximately 3 meters by using the
correct thoughts. Similarly, for the training of the control of a wheelchair and other medical applications the user has to spend time synchronising their electro brain activity with the application they wish to use, but once
completed the communication is relatively effective (Millan, et al., 2004).
The consequences of security failure in brainware devices are yet to be documented in sufficient numbers and scope, that regulatory requirements are implemented for device performance specifications. This is something that the industry might look at in the future so that when a user is training
a headset then a human characteristic is consistent between the different brands and different algorithms. The headsets are also sensitive to underlying emotions and can be used for feedback to the user and not
just to an external control situation.
For example the five electrode headset also reported to the user other parameters that included the user attention level, the user focus level, the user engagement level, the user interest level, the user relaxation level, and the user stress level. These emotional contexts are part of the feature extraction the brainware computes and provides as output. Our concern here is that not only is there information with an external control capability, but these headsets are also linked into an information feedback loop to the user. If either of these two information streams is compromised, then there are unplanned for consequences arising from the use of the technology. Check the research paper here