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BBC boffins hook up brains to iPlayer for ‘mind control TV’ test

The BBC has been testing out a new remote control system that lets users choose programmes using brainwaves. 

Working in conjunction with This Place’s, MindRDR headgear, BBC engineers ran a series of tests to determine how EEG technology could change the way we search for content. 

EEG (Electroencephalography) is typically used to diagnose epilepsy but This Place developed a prototype system using a Neurosky EEG sensor tech which allows wearers to navigate BBC iPlayer menus simply by concentrating. 

Related: Greetings, Dr. Home Hub – Future WiFi routers could listen to your heartbeatA bar at the side of the screen measured the level of ‘concentration’. Once filled up, the desired action was completed on-screen. 

In the BBC tests, ten people were selected to trial the system and they all managed to open iPlayer and start viewing a programme using only the power of their mind, and the positive results have reportedly continued in the Blue Room – the corporation’s test bed for new consumer and broadcast technologies. 

This Place have previously worked on a system that lets users cast content from a phone to a TV with a Chromecast

BBC boffins hook up brains to iPlayer for ‘mind control TV’ test

Cyrus Saihan, head of business development for BBC Digital, spoke with optimism for the new system, but added that the tech is very much in its infancy.

Saihan said: “What we’ve developed here is a very experimental proof of concept, which hopefully gives an idea of how audiences of the future might be able to control devices such as TVs with just using their brainwaves.” 

The prototype is a world away from being working, real-world technology, but the folk behind the project have shown a proof of concept which could be the stepping stone towards a number of useful applications for brainwave-reading technology – including viewers with accessibility issues. 

Broadcasters like YouView and Sky have worked hard to improve the accessibility of their set-top boxes and the RNIB has been busy working on a mobile app which will improve the audio description of services including Netflix, Now TV and Amazon Prime Instant Video. 

Elsewhere, the BBC has been working with another start-up company CrowdEmotion, to record the emotional reactions of viewers. As well as giving producers a better idea of how viewers engage emotionally with their shows, CrowdEmotion’s CEO Matthew Celuszak has said that the same technology could let users interact with TV interfaces by winking, blinking or smiling. 

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