NewScientist has a fascinating interview about the past and future of computer interfaces. The science magazine talked to Andrew Blake, managing director of Microsoft Research Cambridge, the UK laboratory responsible for the machine learning software behind Microsoft Kinect.After talking about ‘exotic interfaces’ such as gesture and voice commands, at the end of the conversation the topic comes to brain-computer interfaces. When the magazine asked him about the next big thing in computer interaction, Mr Blake said the following:
If I knew what the fifth generation was I wouldn’t be sitting here! Brain-computer interfaces are amazing, let’s see how well they can be made to work. For the best ones, of course, you need an implant, but if non-contact brain-computer interfaces get better that would be marvellous. What would be the killer app of a thought-controlled computer?
Thought control might be at its best when we are wandering around the street. As we said, it’s already acceptable to have ear phones plugged into your head, but if I want to find my way through the city I’m going to look a bit of wally chatting about where I want to go. If I could replace that by thinking, great.
Even more so, there’s what I think of as a The Devil Wears Prada scenario. Meryl Streep is at a party and wants to network but she can’t actually remember everybody’s name, so her two lovely assistants have memorised an entire album full of faces and biographies. Whenever someone comes up they whisper to her who it is, so she goes “Oh, darling, John!” as if she knew who it was. If I could have that in my phone, it would be fantastic.