Samsung is building software to control your TV with your brain

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Shara Tibken/CNET

Samsung and EPFL are also working on a system that goes further and relies on brain signals alone for users who aren’t able to control their eyes or other muscles reliably, Chavarriaga said. 

“One thing we have to take in account is everybody is different,” he said. Currently, the technology has to be tailored to each person because of variations in brains. “We believe we have to do the best for the person, so we have to personalize,” Chavarriaga told CNET.

Samsung this week has been hosting its annual developer conference in San Francisco. SDC reflects Samsung’s big push to get developers to make software specifically for its devices. In the past, that’s meant making apps that work on the edge of Samsung’s curved smartphone displays or take advantage of its S Pen stylus. This year, that focus has turned to Bixby and artificial intelligence. But Samsung also has pushed developers to make apps for its other products, like its TVs and home appliances.

Brain power

While developers aren’t yet making apps that can be controlled with the brain, Samsung’s doing research into the area. And it’s not the only company trying to use brainwaves to control devices. SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk in March 2017 launched Neuralink, a company dedicated to creating “neural lace,” which involves installing tiny electrodes in the brain to transmit thoughts.

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Samsung’s Project Pontis collects brainwaves to decide if the user wants to select a particular movie.


Angela Lang/CNET

And neuroscientists around the globe have been researching ways to make a digital interface for the brain. The technology is still early days, but it could one day replace touch screens and voice assistants in devices. Currently, most brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) are currently being created only for people who have suffered debilitating injuries that left them partially or completely paralyzed. 

While Samsung’s first prototype also is targeted at accessibility, it’s too soon to say whether we’ll all one day be controlling our devices with our brainwaves, said Martin Kathriner, head of public affairs for Samsung Electronics Switzerland GmbH. There are limitations with the current hardware. The sensor helmet requires a layer of gel applied to the head, something consumers likely aren’t going to do at home. 

“To us it’s an accessibility idea,” he told CNET after Samsung’s SDC panel. “If it’s applicable to us one day as pro couch potatoes, I have no idea.”

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