In the future, instead of trying to type your mixed-case, numbers-and-punctuation on a painfully small smartphone screen, logging in might be as simple as thinking of your password — or passthoughts, if you will.
This finding, which comes from UC Berkeley,
essentially turns your brain activity into a biometric identifier. In
much the same way that your DNA or the blood vessels in your retina are
unique, your brainwaves also seem to be unique and can be used to
identify you — useful, if you want to log into a computer, or otherwise
prove your identity.
To do this, the Berkeley researchers use a
$100 commercial EEG (electroencephalogram). This $100 EEG, made by
Neurosky, basically resembles a Bluetooth headset with a single
electrode that rests on your forehead, over your brain’s left frontal
lobe. This electrode measures your brainwaves, which it then transmits
via a Bluetooth link to a nearby PC. The Berkeley researchers say that
they their system has an error rate of below 1%, which is comparable to
clinical EEGs, which typically attach 32 to 256 electrodes all over your
skull and cost a lot more than $100.
develop brain biometrics, participants were asked to complete seven
different tasks with the EEG equipped. Three of the tasks were generic,
requiring the participants to focus on breathing in and out, imagine
moving their finger up and down, and listening for an audio tone; the
other four tasks required participants to focus on an
individual/personalized secret, such as singing a song of their choice,
or performing a repetitive action. While performing these tasks, some
clever software on a nearby PC is watching your brainwaves, trying to
discern a pattern, a heuristic that identifies your brain. It
turns out that all seven tasks — even just sitting there and focusing on
your own breathing — provide enough information to authenticate your
identity. (See: Hackers backdoor the human brain, successfully extract sensitive data.)
short, then, Berkeley has developed a system that allows for biometric
login and only costs $100. There are some obvious issues — such as the
bulk and ugliness of the EEG, and the accuracy of the system — but both
of these are fixable. In its current form, you can’t imagine people
wearing the Neurosky EEG in public — but if the electrode was skin
color, and flush with the skin rather than on a big black arm, it would
be a lot more palatable. It is not too crazy to imagine a Bluetooth
smartphone headset, perhaps in a year or two, that incorporates an EEG.
The accuracy of the system is slightly more troublesome: Successfully
identifying someone 99% of the time is good, but nowhere near good
enough for serious applications. The accuracy of the system should
increase over time, though, as EEG hardware and biometric algorithms
improve in quality.
Full story at extremetech.com
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