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The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) is researching how computers reading brain waves may one day speed up the ways intelligence analysts detect targets in satellite images and also alert platoon leaders when soldiers are losing situational awareness.
It's science fiction, right? Nope.
Aviation Week reports that with new technology you can know what you don't know you know.
The analyst’s brain is treated as a sensor: Electrical activity it produces is recorded from electrodes placed on the scalp, the same way electroencephalography (EEG) is used in hospitals to monitor brain activity. Then, when the analyst looks at one of the images flashing by, a scalp plot shows when there is increased brain activity.
As images flash by, the analyst is asked to look for a target such as an airplane. After viewing about 50 of the smaller images (chips), he is asked if he saw an airplane—and he may answer “no.” But digital signal processing of the brain wave activity reveals that, in fact, he did see an airplane on slide 32.
“This process allows us to do triage on large amounts of visual information we get from different soruces and improve an analyst’s ability to go through a large amount of imagery,” says Smith. In fact, the analyst can do the job 5-7 times faster using the triage system than unaided. This is because the triage system picks up brain waves showing recognition of a target even before the human analyst is cognizant he has spotted it.
The technology is apparently very useful in situations where an analyst is processing huge quantities of visual data. (I'm wondering whether this has to do with operators staring at video downlinks from UAVs). The article continues, "The NIA project aims to help the intelligence community deal with the growing problem of having an enormous amount of 'visual media' flowing in for review. It is currently taking the analysts too long to turn the data into usable information that can be acted on by decision-makers and war fighters."