Thursday, July 13, 2006

Human Brain Assists Computer

By Lakshmi Sandhana

A new brain-computer-interface technology could turn our brains into automatic image-identifying machines that operate faster than human consciousness.

Researchers at Columbia University are combining the processing power of the human brain with computer vision to develop a novel device that will allow people to search through images ten times faster than they can on their own.

The "cortically coupled computer vision system," known as C3 Vision, is the brainchild of professor Paul Sajda, director of the Laboratory for Intelligent Imaging and Neural Computing at Columbia University. He received a one-year, $758,000 grant from Darpa for the project in late 2005.

The system harnesses the brain's well-known ability to recognize an image much faster than the person can identify it.

"Our human visual system is the ultimate visual processor," says Sajda. "We are just trying to couple that with computer vision techniques to make searching through large volumes of imagery more efficient.

The brain emits a signal as soon as it sees something interesting, and that "aha" signal can be detected by an electroencephalogram, or EEG cap. While users sift through streaming images or video footage, the technology tags the images that elicit a signal, and ranks them in order of the strength of the neural signatures.

No existing computer vision systems connect with the human brain, and computers on their own don't do well at identifying unusual events or specific targets.

Future Job: Image processor for computer company. Computers do not necessarily put people out of work. They just change the jobs. This image processing application may be a good job. Go to work in the morning, strap on your wired-up electrode cap, watch a stream of pictures flash by all day.

Wired News: This Is a Computer on Your Brain


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