CeBIT 2010: The computer that reads your mind

Austrian firm Gtec has unveiled a home-based computer system that can read minds to spell out words on a laptop.

Gtec is showing off what it calls the first patient-ready computer-brain interface at CeBIT in Hanover this week.

The Intendix system is designed for people unable to speak or write. It uses wireless technology to connect a skull cap covered in electrodes to a laptop, which is loaded with software to analyse the signal.

As letters light up on the screen, the user focuses on one. The system picks up the EEG signal, displaying the chosen letter on the screen. The text can then be read out loud, printed, or sent in an email.

On first use, it takes up to 30 seconds for the computer to read the letter, but Gtec representatives said the more practiced the user, the quicker the process becomes, cutting it down to just one or two seconds per letter.

"One second per letter is very tough," Gtec's Engelbert Grunbacher said, adding users can usually easily get to five or 10 letters per minute. "You learn to be relaxed, focused. You improve."

The news editor of our sister title PC Pro didn't have time to relax and improve. Gtec's Clemens Holzner had Stuart Turton trained and ready to go in under 10 minutes, after which he managed to spell out "howdy chums" in under five minutes in the middle of a crowded show hall. (Read on for his version of the experience here).

While the ease of the system makes it excellent for home use, the 9,000 cost for the entire system might make it difficult to afford, but for a first edition, it is really impressive.

Click here for photos of how the system works and what it takes to be trained to use it.

Read on for more news from CeBIT here.