Nintendo took e-learning to the global masses with the DS and Brain Training. At the same time they gave us the Wii remote, allowing us to play tennis, box and generally get hot and sweaty while playing games. Then there’s the Wii Fit, a board that allows you to do yoga and exercise. Looks as though they’re planning to shape the future once again with a brain control interface.
The EPOC headset from Emotiv has 16 sensors on the scalp. The electrical activity in the brain is translated into actions on the screen. We already have prosthetic control by the brain for those who have lost limbs. The next step is to take mind-control to the next level, in learning.
This could transform the way humans interact with computers. When people communicate the use facial expressions, body language and intuitive judgments. Tap directly into the brain and computers can understand these conscious and pre-conscious thoughts which can be used to trigger actions. There are three main areas:
Expressive – facial expressions
Effective – emotional experience
Cognitive – ability to control objects by thought
The latest Emotiv wireless headset (with gyroscope to track head movements) will use head movements and cognitive control within games.
In the late 80’s I sold an application called ‘Managing Stress’. You put a band around your head, which measured skin resistance, hooked it up to the back of the PC, and had to get a balloon to rise as you relaxed. Not exactly brain control, but close.
This approach has morphed into augmented cognition is big news in military research, where the augmented soldier gets a significant advantage in the battlefield. There’s brainwave binoculars that detect objects see but not noticed. The binoculars are linked to scalp sensors which detect pre-conscious events. Another military project used augmented cognition to help military analysts improve their performance.
What’s far more interesting is the possibility of augmented learning, where this technology helps us hugely improve performance by using thought control to learn faster and improve retention. Here’s why:
1. Dramatic increase in psychological attention leads to better understanding, storage and recall
2. Visioning in the mind is in itself rehearsal and practice, allowing efficient encoding and storage
3. Diagnostic potential will mean the ultimate in personalised learning
3. Recall can be measured directly allowing unmediated assessment
This is literally mind blowing. The problems teaching and learning is that it is very difficult for the teacher to really know what’s going on in the mind of the learner. With strong feedback mechanisms this could potentially do better than any teacher. The learner also has to literally understand and do the right thing. You can’t drift through class or wing it.
It is not hard to envision a future where games become a normal part of a child’s learning process. I’m willing to bet that the increased use of something like a DS and Brain Training would already dramatically increase numeracy and literacy, and there’s a growing body of evidence showing that maths and basic literacy works gives dramatic improvements in performance. This stuff could push augmented learning into the position of being the most significant improvement to the productivity of learning that we, as a species, have ever seen. Truly mind blowing!