Mind-Reading Helmet to ID Terrorists

A new company says it's on its way to developing a helmet that would allow the U.S. military to tell friend from enemy by reading people's thoughts, the engineering magazine IEEE Spectrum reported.

The helmet, under development at Veritas Scientific, has both a display screen and metal brain sensors made to go through the hair and touch the scalp. The screen shows wearers a mix of innocuous, unrelated images and important ones, such as details about a bomb, that only suspects should recognize. Meanwhile, the sensors monitor wearers' brain activity. 

The sensors look for a faint, but characteristic electric signal the brain gives off when someone recognizes an image or name. The signal, called P300, is well known to neuroscientists. In the future, the helmet might help soldiers arrive at a village in Afghanistan and quickly sort out which villagers knew about a plot and which didn't, said Eric Elbot, CEO of Veritas Scientific. 

The P300 signal isn't always reliable, however. It's affected by loud noises, arousal, surprises, suddenly focused attention, stress and depression, Spectrum reported. Investigators should use the signal in addition to other evidence, Elbot said. 

Elbot plans to sell the helmet to the U.S. military first, but he thinks it'll eventually make its way to police departments and criminal trials, landing finally in a cellphone app for civilians. He's pursing a military contract now, he told Spectrum. He also told the magazine:  "The last realm of privacy is your mind. This will invade that."

Source: IEEE Spectrum

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