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Our mouse and keyboard could become a thing of the past. Manhattan-based start-up CTRL-labs is developing a wearable that allows people to control computers, robots and applications by tracking the electrical activity generated when a person thinks about moving.
The company is founded by Patrick Kaifosh and Thomas Reardon, both of whom have PhDs in neuroscience from Columbia University. Reardon also created Internet Explorer while at Microsoft. To make this human-machine link possible, they figured out how to tap into the body's nervous system.
An armband outfitted with a number of sensors detects the brain's electrical activity and sends it to a computer. From there, algorithms decode it and use the signals to manipulate a machine. Users can then do things like scroll through text, turn a dial or select items from a menu just by thinking about it. The signals can even be used to control robots.
"We don't decode your movement, we decode your intention," Reardon said.
The start-up envisions the technology will completely change the way we use our devices.
"Your phone, a tablet, the computer that’s built into a kiosk at the airport. All of those things are potential areas in which CTRL-labs can completely change the means by which you interact with those experiences," Reardon said.
The team thinks the technology will initially be used for augmented and virtual reality, but CTRL-labs is already experimenting with medical applications. The device is being used at Johns Hopkins University, where it is being tested for neurorehabilitation for stroke patients and hand transplants.
Later this year, CTRL-labs will release its technology to software developers.
"I have every faith in the world that this technology will come to dominate the way that we interact with machines. CTRL-labs may not be the company that pulls that off, but the technology will rewrite technology history," says Reardon.