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The BBC are developing mind-controlled iPlayer – could this be the end for the remote?

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If automatic doors, motion control video games and hooded dressing gowns weren’t making you feel like enough of a Jedi in your day-to-day life then we have some good news for you – mind-controlled TV could become a reality.
Well, sort of – the BBC has been experimenting with a basic brainwave reading headset, according to a new blog post from head of business development at BBC Digital, Cyrus Saihan. The headset is programmed to interact with a special version of BBC iPlayer, making us all look at our clunky, physical remote controls with the unbridled frustration and pity we’d usually reserve for a Nokia 3210.
The way the headset works is by measuring electrical activity in the brain, with two small sensors on the forehead and ear able to gauge user “concentration” on certain objects and items, illustrated on screen with a “volume bar” (see above left). Once they hit a certain level of concentration, a command is sent to the computer to do something – in this case, maybe start an episode of Gary: Tank Commander.
The first trials took place with 10 BBC staff members, and while the prototype is in its very early stages, it does actually seem to work (though some more force-sensitive types found it easier than others to concentrate on certain TV options and control the device).
“We wanted to experiment with the technology to see what types of audience experiences this might result in,” says Saihan. “You can imagine a world where instead of having to get up from your sofa or reach for your remote, you just think ‘put BBC1 on’ when you want to watch TV.”
All very exciting for those of us who strongly object to the act of movement in all its insidious forms – but sadly we shouldn’t be expecting to telepathically direct our own TVs any time soon.
“It’s important to stress that it’s very early days,” says Saihan. “While brainwave reading devices are constantly improving, their capabilities are still quite basic – the outputs on our very experimental app were limited to simple binary ‘on’ / ‘off’ instructions, for example.”
Of course, the BBC aren’t the first to develop mind control toys. There are plenty of prototypes in development, including Star Wars-themed projects for all you wannabe Jedi out there. 

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