The BBC is testing a new type of headset that can read a user's brainwaves and use their brain activity to change the channel. Developed with London-based technology group, This Place, the headset has so far been tested by 10 BBC staff in their homes, using a customised version of BBC's iPlayer platform.
All 10 were reportedly able to turn on iPlayer and select specific shows using nothing but their thoughts. "It was much easier for some than it was for others, but they all managed to get it to work," Cyrus Saihan, head of business development for the BBC Digital, wrote in a blog post.
The technology works by having iPlayer cycle through a bunch of TV shows, and the headset allows the users to pick one using the strength of their brain activity. Which means they basically just need to concentrate really hard when they want to turn iPlayer on, and then again when they want to select a program.
Each program is shown for 10 seconds, so the user can either 'tune out' mentally when they see a program they're not interested in, or concentrate when they see one they want to watch. This means either focussing your attention or 'meditating', for example, closing your eyes and taking deep breaths.
According to Jamieson Cox at The Verge, a 'volume bar' will be displayed, which will show the user how close they are to successfully selecting a specific program. If the user wants to switch programs or turn iPlayer off halfway through, they will need to concentrate to turn on the iPlayer's main menu.
Nancy Owano describes the user reactions at Phys.org:
"One user, smiling , said, 'It's nuts'. He was wondering if, when watching with his son they would be fighting over brain waves to choose the program they could both watch. Another user, looking puzzled over its being able to work as easily as it did for her, said, 'how do you do it?'"
Before anyone gets too excited, this technology isn't going to be making its way to your living room anytime soon, Saihan describing it as "an internal prototype designed to give our program makers, technologists and other users an idea of how this technology might be used in future". And while it will take a whole lot of upgrading to get even close to the speed and versatility of a good, old-fashioned TV remote, it does offer some really interesting potential for people with disabilities.
Tim Mildon from the BBC predicted that in the next 10 or 20 years, the technology will be ready to assist people with severe disabilities and limited movement. "It is part of the BBC's research into how technology might make its services more accessible to people with disabilities," Stuart Dredge reports at The Guardian.
Gotta start somewhere, right? The future of television is millions of people simultaneously rage quiting Game of Thrones with their minds every time religion burns a child.