Computer Helps Users Multi-Task By Doing Work For Them

Computer Helps Users Multi-Task By Doing Work For Them

MIT's Brainput system measures brain activity and gives you a break when you've got lots to do.

Emma Hutchings
  • 16 may 2012

Researchers from MIT, Indiana University and Tufts University have developed a system that lets the user offload tasks to a computer when they have lots to do. Brainput uses a portable brain monitoring technology called functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), which scans the users brain and can detect when they are multitasking. An adaptive interface then adjusts the user’s workload and helps them out.

Erin Treacy Solovey and her team tested the Brainput system using a maze and two remote-controlled robots. They equipped the operator with the fNIRS headgear and told them to navigate both of the robots through the maze simultaneously, by constantly switching between them. Brainput detected that the operator was multitasking and instructed the robots to use their own sensors to help with navigation. Overall, while using the Brainput system, the operator’s performance improved.

This technology could be used to boost people’s performance and reduce their stress levels. Solovey now wants to investigate other cognitive states that can be reliably measured using fNIRS.


+brain activity
+human-computer interaction

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