There’s no wearable device that you can use to control your computer with your mind. Now, CTRL Labs is developing a device that will let you do just that.
CTRL Labs is a Manhattan, NYC-based startup that’s backed by tech giants like Amazon and Alphabet.
The startup develops neural interfaces to make our interactions with technology more fluid to the point where devices feel that they’ve become part of you.
Many companies are interested in this technology. For example, last year Facebook revealed an experimental thought-typing system. For many of these companies, the ultimate goal is a direct line to the human brain, which is still technically difficult and potentially dangerous. CTRL-Labs is trying to perform the same functions with a simple electrode-studded wristband.
Patrick Kaifosh founded CTRL Labs with Thomas Reardon in 2015. Both of them have PhDs in neuroscience from Columbia University. Reardon also created Internet Explorer while he was at Microsoft.
To make this human-machine link possible, Kaifosh and Reardon figured out how to tap into the body’s nervous system.
“Your brain actually generates commands that propagate out to your muscles to allow you to move in the world. That’s all relayed via what’s called the motor nervous system. Ultimately your brain sends down a signal to your spinal cord, and your spinal cord in turn relays that up to the muscles. This is an electrical signal that’s actually received in the muscle,” says Reardon.
An armband outfitted with a number of sensors detects this electrical activity and sends it to a computer. From there, algorithms decode it and use the signals to decode a machine. Users can then do things like scroll through texts, turn a dial or sought items from a menu. The signals can even be used to control robots.
“You don’t have to actually move for us to decode some of your intentions, what you have to do is generate that electrical pulse,” Reardon says.