Going hands-free: Hitachi's brain-machine interface

by Ian Johnson, CBC news online

If you're one of those people who HAS to have the latest and greatest computer gadget, Hitachi has just the thing: A portable brain-machine interface. That is, as long as you've got roughly $840,000 U.S. burning a hole in your pocket.

A brain-machine interface basically senses activity in your brain and converts it into signals to control machinery or electronic devices.

Hitachi showed off an early prototype in November 2006 that allowed people to turn a power switch on and off with a thought - pretty cool, but the headset looked like something out of a 1960s sci-fi drama. The version unveiled Tuesday represents an enormous leap forward, at least in the aesthetics department - it looks like something from a 1980s sci-fi drama (see photo).

Photo Credit Getty Images.jpg(Photo: Getty Images)

Details from Tuesday's demonstration at the company's headquarters in Japan were sketchy, and the company didn't say whether the capabilities had been expanded from the version shown to the public in November last year. Hitachi did say the system is easy to use and that it had been built using parts from models designed for medical applications. It has eight pairs of lasers and optical sensors in a special headband that measures prefrontal cortex activity in the brain.