BBC Testing Mind-Controlled iPlayer

The U.K. public broadcaster sees potential for it as an advanced user interface that could improve accessibility.

We've seen the idea of mind control in the movies — for instance “The Force” in Star Wars — but now the BBC is testing mind control for its iPlayer, it revealed on Thursday in a blog post.

The iPlayer is the broadcaster's VOD service that allows for catch-up viewing and access to some original content on TV screens, computers, tablets and other devices.

The U.K. public broadcaster reported that it took a brainwave reading headset and created a “mind control TV” prototype designed to allow a consumer to open an experimental version of BBC iPlayer and select content, using their brainwaves. To do this, it collaborated with user-experience studio This Place.

“Our first trial run saw 10 BBC staff members try out the app, and all were able to launch BBC iPlayer and start viewing a program simply by using their minds. It was much easier for some than it was for others, but they all managed to get it to work,” wrote Cyrus Saihan, BBC digital’s head of business development.

The BBC is now examining how this could be used to improve accessibility, as well as its potential as a user interface.

“An important potential benefit that brainwave technology might offer is the ability to improve the accessibility of media content to people with disabilities,” Saihan wrote. “For example, people affected by motor-neurone disease or suffering locked-in-syndrome may increasingly be able to use brain-computer interfaces to get a better experience of digital and media services than they currently do, potentially opening up the online world of information and experiences that the rest of us now take for granted."

As to its potential as a user interface, Saihan explained that mind control technology could be an additional, more advanced method, alongside voice control, of satisfying people's desire to access digital content as quickly and easily as possible.

Said Saihan: "You can imagine a world where instead of having to get up from your sofa or reach for your remote, you just think ‘put BBC One on’ when you want to watch TV."

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