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EEG helmet may be able to determine who you know, say researchers

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A company called Veritas Scientific is working on a helmet that could determine when a subject recognizes an object or face by reading signals from the human brain.

Brain waves (FLICKR)
Brain waves (FLICKR)

We've all had the experience of trying to put a name to a face, and researchers are working on a system that can detect that moment when things click — and they're hoping to put it to use for both the government and the private sector. IEEE Spectrum reports that the system, in development by Veritas Scientific, consists of a helmet with integrated metal brush sensors that read brain activity. A visor quickly flashes images in front of the eyes of the subject, and that moment of recognition — characterized by a specific electroencephalogram (EEG) signature called a P300 — is recorded, allowing the person operating the helmet to determine if the subject is familiar with the image or face they're being shown.

Veritas Scientific CEO Eric Elbot told IEEE Spectrum that one of its earlier devices, called BrainTruth, had already seen military use to test individuals entering the US that were suspected of being foreign agents. Elbot doesn't think the company's devices should be the sole purview of the military, however, envisioning their use in law enforcement, trials, and even in the public sector. That said, the new helmet is in the early stages — the brush sensors themselves are still in development — and the company is working on distinguishing the nuances of P300 reactions triggered from sources other than recognition. That said, Elbot is confident in the device, stating that "The last realm of privacy is your mind... This will invade that."