At the IAA Mobility exhibition in Munich Mercedes has brought several new, concrete and very thick price lists to the electric list. At the same time, however, it is beginning to show a project of extreme complexity, linked to the concept of BCI (acronym in English which translated means brain-computer interface), which could lead to driving no longer ‘physical’, but mental. In short, with thought.
Selecting the navigation destination via mind control, switching the ambient light inside or switching the radio station: brain-computer interfaces allow new forms of machine control, and are no longer science fiction. In medical research, for example, BCI applications are seen as a viable option to help people with physical disabilities become more independent. Mercedes-Benz is now integrating the first BCI approaches into its pioneering Vision AVTR concept. How does it work? After a short calibration process, a BCI device attached to the driver’s head analyzes the measured brain waves and activates a defined function.
At the Munich trade fair stand, visitors can experience the control of the user interface in the vehicle with their own thoughts and interact with it in real time. Wearable electrodes, attached to the back of the head, record brain activity and establish a direct connection to the vehicle after a one-minute calibration. The brain reacts to visual stimuli on the dashboard; while the BCI device in the meantime measures neuronal activity in real time. In this way the measured brain waves are analyzed, obtaining the recognition on which bright points the user directs his attention and his full attention (thanks to a specific detection interface). The stronger the focus, the greater the neuronal activity. The device then activates the function inside the vehicle.
Markus Schäfer, member of the board of directors of Daimler AG and Mercedes-Benz AG, said: “With the continuous development of our ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice assistant and the MBUX Hyperscreen integrated system, we have already radically simplified the operation of the vehicle. BCI technology can allow you to further lighten the user, so that you can focus only on the driving experience“. The room for improvement in this technology seems to be infinite: if you can turn on the air conditioning by thinking, you can imagine that you also control the steering wheel, accelerator and brake in this way. And if you can intervene on navigation, in a self-driving vehicle this would really mean directing operations with the mind.
FP | Samuel Prosino
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