Most brain-computer interfaces are designed to help disabled people communicate or move around. A new project is using this type of interface to help computers perform tasks they can’t manage on their own. In experiments, researchers used the interface to sort through satellite images for surface-to-air missiles faster than any machine or human analyst could manage alone.
"With Google, you have to type in words to describe what you’re interested in," says Paul Sajda, an associate professor at Columbia University. "But let’s say I’m interested in something ‘funny looking.’ "
Sajda explains that computers struggle to classify images according to this kind of abstract concept, but humans can do it almost instantly. Electrical signals within the brain fire before a person even realizes he’s recognized an image as odd or unusual.