Technobabble: Bill Gates' regret and brains becoming internet-connected
Technobabble is our look at the more colorful aspects of technology and the tech industry. Be sure to check out our most recent edition featuring iPhone obsession and thirst for Amazon's HQ2.
Biomedical engineers at the Wits School of Electrical and Information Engineering turned the human brain into an IoT device by connecting it to the internet in real time, according to a university announcement.
University lecturer Adam Pantanowitz led a team of students to achieve the "Brainternet" project's success. The group outfitted a subject with an internet accessible electroencephalogram (EEG) device, which converted the brain waves into an "open source brain live stream" through a Raspberry Pi application programming interface. The data was then displayed on a website portal.
Brainternet hopes to simplify how brains work and process information, both for general understanding and personal understanding of one’s own brain, said Pantanowitz in the announcement. He hopes to improve upon the technology to use it through a smartphone app and to create bidirectional data transfer to and from the brain.
Connecting human brains to technology is not an achievement for the sake of novelty. EEG headsets often make the news by allowing users to control a game or toy, but in July University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers demonstrated how the device can be used to monitor a user's brainwaves and guess their password. The development bodes well for hackers but not for users or companies.
Elon Musk made waves last year with his announcement of a "neural lace" project to surgically connect the human brain and technology, according to ZDNet. His company Neuralink is working on an implantable "mesh" of electrodes connectable to synapses to offer direct communication between the brain and a computer.
Such a "brain-machine-interface" is intended to offer important medical advantages for individuals with brain injuries, but successful implementation offers bigger-picture applications as well as ethical and security considerations.
In the coming decades, organizations working with such technologies will have to parse out how far is too far when combining the human brain with technology and whether or not communication can only be unidirectional from the brain to a computer.
One macro thing
The U.S. Navy will install Xbox 360 controllers on Virginia-class submarines — and no, they are not for sailors' down time, according to the Virginian-Pilot.
Responding to sailors' recommendations that the military branch do away with "clunky" and "heavy" traditional rotating tube periscopes, the Navy is turning to photonics masts with high-resolution cameras and 360 degree rotation on the submarine models. The gaming tech allows crew members to operate the periscopes and broadcast images to everyone in the control room via large monitors, a huge upgrade from the old models which only one person could look through at a time.
Lockheed Martin and Navy officials integrated video game controllers — a technology many sailors already developed skills — as part of an effort to integrate commercial technologies to save on costs and training. They hope to integrate more familiar technologies such as touchscreen pads and virtual environments in coming years.
The consumerization of tech in the workplace is taking place throughout the enterprise. Many employees expect to have tech devices and capabilities available at home in the office too. While this can strain company networks and upgrade efforts, it also means a more technologically flexible and fluent workforce.
One micro thing
AOL was the digital cupid of the 1990s, but instead of a strum of the harp, its calling was "You've got mail."
Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks paved the way for ignorant lovers to remotely profess their love into a computer screen, but cybersecurity experts know better.
"I delete all the love letters from my husband because I never want anyone to see them," said Heather Adkins, Google's director of information and security, according to Business Insider. Adkins warns hackers will always be present, and hacking is not a question of "if" or "who," but "when."
Email is still the preferred communication platform in the workplace, but 90% of cyberattacks are attributed to human error. Fake emails from CEOs cost companies $5.3 billion over the last three years. While love letters may not cost quite this much, it could cost executives their pride.
As for Gmail security, Adkins said compromises could happen to anybody. But, "I think we're ready," she said. In the meantime, the internet has no place for love — this isn't the 90s.
One last thing
Everyone has regrets, but what is the one that keeps the world's richest man awake at night? The three-finger requirement of ctrl+alt+delete.
Bill Gates was asked by Quartz why it takes three fingers to lock or log in to a PC and why he thought it was a good idea. Gates answered the questions honestly, if not a little bashfully.
"You can't go back and change the small things in your life without putting the other things at risk," said Gates. And then the truth came out: "If I could make one small edit I would make that a single key operation."
Arguably, the function probably isn't enough to force Gates to count sheep. After all, he can sleep on a quality mattress named after his dear friend Warren Buffet.