The Future is Here: The Pulse-Tech Car Stopper

safe_stop1High-speed car chases could become a thing of the past, thanks to new technologies that are making unsafe driving a thing of the past. First, there was the joint project being developed by Emotiv and the Royal Automobile Club of Western Australia. Known as an “attention-powered car”, the driver of this vehicle wears a headset that measures their brainwaves and shuts down the engine in case of inattention.

And now, there’s a technology being developed by UK’s E2V which could shut down cars from the other end. That is to say, a technology aimed at detecting speeding cars and stopping them by electronically neutralizing their systems. It’s known as the RF Safe Stop, a system that uses electromagnetic pulses to confuse the systems of car and force its engine to stall.
Safe_StopAccording to the BBC, the technology has piqued the interest of the military and police:

In demonstrations seen by the BBC, a car drove towards the device at about 24km/h (15mph). As the vehicle entered the range of the RF Safe-Stop, its dashboard warning lights and dials behaved erratically, the engine stopped, and the car rolled gently to a halt. Digital audio and video recording devices in the vehicle were also affected.

There are concerns about the technology’s effects on electronic braking and steering systems, but EV2 says the risks are low. Because RF Safe-Stop works on electronic systems, it can also be effective on boats. If adopted, the technology could find its way into road stops and traffic points, where it could be used to target people breaking the speed limit and force their cars into a shutdown until police arrive.

rf_safestopThere are drawbacks, of course. Older vehicles, which are less dependent on electronic systems, will be immune to the Safe Stop’s signals. In this respect, low-tech trumps high-tech due to a lack of complexity. However, given the sheer proliferation of modern vehicles, and their growing dependence on electronic systems (and engines), the Safe Stop technology is likely to be adopted all across the UK in the coming years.

Looking farther down the road, its not unlikely that advanced traffic systems and countermeasures will be featured on highways and waterways all over the world. In addition to being able to monitor traffic patterns, read license plates and registries, and tag those of offenders, it will also be able to deploy a targeted EM burst on vehicles that are identified by police as criminals or possible terrorists, and stop them in their tracks.

Batman_EMPgunAnd of course, a militarized version of the technology is a no-brainer, given the military’s long-standing love affair with EM technology. Imagine, if you will, vehicle-mounted electromagnetic weaponry that will be capable of taking out a column of enemy vehicles simply by neutralizing their systems. Or possibly a handheld device used by infantry (like Batman’s) to defend themselves against tanks and helicopters!

It’s important to dream big! And in the meantime, be sure to enjoy this BBC video short that demonstrates the technology in action:


Sources: fastcompany.com, e2v.com

The Future is Here: The Insight Neuroheadset

Emotiv_insightPortable EEG devices have come a long way in recent years. From their humble beginnings as large, wire-studded contraptions that cost upwards of $10,000, they have now reached the point where they are small, portable, and affordable. What’s more, they are capable of not only reading brainwaves and interpreting brain activity, but turning that activity into real-time commands and controls.

Once such device is the Emotiv Insight, a neuroheadset that is being created with the help of a Kickstarter campaign and is now available for preorder. Designed by the same company that produced the EPOC, an earlier brain-computer interface (BCI) that was released in 2010, the Insight offers many improvements. Unlike its bulky predecessor, the new model is sleeker, lighter, uses five sensors instead of the EPOC’s fourteen and can be linked to your smartphone.

Emotiv_insight_EPOCIn addition, the Insight uses a new type of hydrophilic polymer sensor that absorbs moisture from the environment. Whereas the EPOC’s sensors required that the user first apply saline solution to their scalp, no extra applied moisture is necessary with this latest model. This is a boon for people who plan on using it repeatedly and don’t want to moisten their head with goo every time to do it.

The purpose behind the Insight and EPOC headsets is quite simple. According to Tan Le, the founder of Emotiv, the company’s long term aim is to take a clinical system (the EEG) from the lab into the real world and to democratize brain research. As already noted, older EEG machines were prohibitively expensive for smaller labs and amateur scientists and made it difficult to conduct brain research. Le and his colleagues hope to change that.

emotiv_insight1And it seems that they are destined to get their way. Coupled with similar devices from companies like Neurosky, the stage seems set for an age when brain monitoring and brain-computer interface research is something that is truly affordable – costing just a few hundred dollars instead of $10,000 – and allowing independent labs and skunkworks to contribute their own ideas and research to the fore.

As of September 16th, when the Kickstarter campaign officially closed, Emotiv surpassed its $1 million goal and raised a total of $1,643,117 for their device. Because of this, the company plans to upgrade the headset with a six-axis intertial sensor – to keep track of the user’s head movements, gait, tremor, gestures, etc. – a microSD card reader for added security, and a 3-axis magnetometer (i.e. a compass).

woman-robotic-arm_650x366In some cases, these new brain-to computer interfaces are making it possible for people with disabilities or debilitating illnesses to control robots and prosthetics that assist them with their activities, rehab therapy, or restore mobility. On a larger front, they are also being adapted for commercial use – gaming and interfacing with personal computers and devices – as well as potential medical science applications such as neurotherapy, neuromonitoring, and neurofeedback.

Much like a fitness tracker, these devices could let us know how we are sleeping, monitor our emotional state over time, and make recommendations based on comparative analyses. So in addition to their being a viable growth market in aiding people with disabilities, there is also the very real possibility that neuroheadsets will give people a new and exciting way to interface with their machinery and keep “mental records”.

Passwords are likely to replace passthoughts, people will be able to identify themselves with brain-activity records, and remote control will take on a whole new meaning! In addition, mental records could become part of our regular medical records and could even be called upon to be used as evidence when trying to demonstrate mental fitness or insanity at trials. Dick Wolf, call me already! I’m practically giving these ideas away!

And be sure to enjoy this video from Emotiv’s Kickstarter site:


Sources: fastcoexist.com, kickstarter.com