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UC Berkeley researchers develop technology to access passwords with mind

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APRIL 11, 2013

Have you ever wanted to log in to a device with your mind? For students here at Cal, this would be convenient. Imagine being able to access AirBears or your student email address by simply thinking. Never again would you constantly have to type in your CalNet username and password to access student services. If you’ve watched enough sci-fi films, then this has got to be something you’ve always dreamed of. But fantasies like this seem out of reach with today’s modern technology. Fortunately, UC Berkeley researchers have recently taken steps toward creating a technology that allows identification through brainwaves.

The project was led by School of Information professor John Chuang. The researchers developed a means of confirming identity through the use of brain activity into a commercial EEG (electroencephalogram). This device is a $100 headset with a single electrode pick up that reaches around your forehead to sense your brainwaves. With this device, a biometric brainwave login is transmitted as a password or “passthought” through a Bluetooth link to a PC where identification is authenticated.

The process of creating a log-in ID through brain biometrics is simple. Participants of the project were asked to undergo seven different tasks. Three of these consisted of basic bodily functions such as breathing, imagining their finger moving up and down and listening to an audio tone. The remaining four focused on creating a unique individual secret that allows for user specific identification. These encompass singing a song of their choice or focusing on a particular thought for 10 seconds. Once all of the data is gathered from the participant, a biometric login is created through discerning a pattern in brain activity.

Despite the process’ efficiency in cost and method, it isn’t perfectly ready for the world just yet. Apparently, there is still a whopping 1 percent error rate (these scientist-types are such perfectionists). Also, the EEG headset isn’t the most fashionable thing around either. If this were to become a thing now, it probably wouldn’t fly with the Berkeley fashion aficionados just yet, unless having a large plastic headset around your head can be considered the newest fad in vintage city fashion. But hey, we at the Clog are all for fashion suicide if it means activating devices with our brains!

Anyway, who knows what the future will bring for this kind of technology. Maybe it will be incorporated into all Bluetooth headsets to log in to smart phones or computers? Or maybe it will become a standard issue device given to all students for use toward all campus student services? The future holds many limitless possibilities that are as exciting as they are awesome. Regardless, it looks like this sci-fi dream of ours just might come true!

Contact Matt Espineli at [email protected]

APRIL 10, 2013