Microsoft wants you to open Windows apps with your mind

A picture of a brain set against a blue sky.

Microsoft has applied to patent a mind-controlled interface, so you may soon be able to open and control an app just by thinking about it. 

The patent called 'Changing an application state using neurological data' was published last week and describes a device that can read human brain waves via electroencephalography (EEG), a technique often used in a clinical setting that involves placing electrodes along a user’s head. The data collected would then be used to launch and control an application. 

It noted the tech could be used in 3D modelling software, word processors, video games, virtual reality and augmented reality simulators and much more. The same team also recently filed a related patent for a motion controller powered by the brain, too. 

The team behind these futuristic patents includes Kazuhito Koishida, the principal lead scientist at the Applied Science Group in the Windows Division, Cem Keski who has been working on hand gesture controls and Professor Jaeyoun Kim, who has developed an artificial eye. 

Making a play for your mind

The patent follows Facebook’s ambitious plans to integrate similar brain-reading tech into its products, which would allow users to control interfaces and even transcribe thoughts using the same kind of neurological data.

Microsoft and Facebook aren’t the only big companies interested in the future of brain-reading tech. At CES 2018, Nissan unveiled its “brain-to-vehicle” (B2V) technology, which uses a similar electroencephalography (EEG) headset to read your brain’s responses to events so you can respond to dangerous situations on the road more quickly.

Although it’s still early days for brain wave reading to be integrated into the interfaces we interact with regularly, these recent developments signal a big interest in the future of mind-controlled tech and could hint at products that may be coming in the not-so-distant future. 

Becca Caddy

Becca is a contributor to TechRadar, a freelance journalist and author. She’s been writing about consumer tech and popular science for more than ten years, covering all kinds of topics, including why robots have eyes and whether we’ll experience the overview effect one day. She’s particularly interested in VR/AR, wearables, digital health, space tech and chatting to experts and academics about the future. She’s contributed to TechRadar, T3, Wired, New Scientist, The Guardian, Inverse and many more. Her first book, Screen Time, came out in January 2021 with Bonnier Books. She loves science-fiction, brutalist architecture, and spending too much time floating through space in virtual reality.