Date
11 December 2017
InteraXon co-founder Ariel Garten says the company could launch some consumer products in the next five to 10 years. Picture: HKEJ
InteraXon co-founder Ariel Garten says the company could launch some consumer products in the next five to 10 years. Picture: HKEJ

The mind-bending future of thought-controlled devices

First came Apple’s mobile touch screens. Then came Google’s glasses. Now Canadian company InteraXon thinks it has the key to the next frontier in device controls.

The company has spent a decade or so developing its Muse brainwave-sensing headband, a tool that detects electrical activity in the brain and converts it into digital signals to send to devices,

“We have got a lot of successful prototypes in our lab and will be able to launch some consumer products within the next five to 10 years,” Ariel Garten, chief executive of the Toronto-based startup, said in an exclusive interview with Hong Kong Economic Journal Monthly.

Garten said InteraXon is working on products that can respond to a person’s mood, such as alarms that sound when a motorist falls asleep at the wheel. 

She said the aim is to develop technology that knows what people want. “Robots can never replace the human brain. We will continue to control our will while technology will help us improve thought and enjoy life,” she said.

The company has set up center to research the safety, privacy and ethical implications of the products. 

Garten, who studied neurology and fashion design, teamed up with Steve Mann in 2003 to research brainwaves. They founded InteraXon in 2007 with two more partners and last year US$6 million in series A funding, attracting investors including Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing’s Horizons Ventures.

Garten said she has showed the headband to Solina Chau Hoi-shuen, director of the Li Ka Shing Foundation and founder of Horizons Ventures, and had a good response.

The headband sells for US$299 and has been bought by some big companies to help staff monitor their mental activity so they can improve productivity. Some students also buy the headbands to help them concentrate on their studies, Garten said.

“We originally thought we would receive a lot of orders from North America but we ended up getting a lot from Turkey and South Korea, as well as Singapore and Hong Kong,” she said.

Although the brainwave technology is still in its initial stages there will be a time when the human brain can control various devices by thought alone, she said.

– Contact HKEJ at [email protected]

JP/SK

Chief reporter at EJ Insight

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