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Startup penetrates the mind of Glassholes

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Think you couldn't look any sillier than a Glasshole? Prepare to be proven wrong by a British startup that asks you to add a forehead-dimpling biosensor to the dorky spectacle that is Google headgear.

The Shoreditch-based firm This Place unveiled its MindRDR app yesterday. The app connects Glass with an electroencephalogram (EEG) biosensor (made by NeuroSky) that reads brainwave activity – allowing you to control the tech specs using just the power of thought.

The problem with Glass, the firm explained, is that it's not the hands-free experience you might expect. The user has to cock their head backwards to switch it on, as well as fondling the side of it to perform certain functions.

That's no good if you're suffering from locked in syndrome or so other affliction involving a total loss of mobility.

"We wondered what it would be like if you could control Glass with your mind," said Chloe Kirton, creative director. "The human interface is getting in the way because of the need to move you arms, which seemed restrictive to people who maybe didn’t have that opportunity."

All a person needs to do is strap on the brain-reading device and Glass, before concentrating - a gesture which often requires a facial expression generally reserved by most for visits to the toilet. Brainwaves are then picked up, which tell Google's wearable computer to take a picture and upload it to Twitter.

We visited the office, which is so Shoreditch that is is also inhabited by a dachshund called Frank. He has a blog, obviously.

I strapped on both Glass and the biosensor, before standing in front of a mirror and attempting to concentrate. This writer's fretting about how his denuded hairline would appear on camera was enough to trigger the concentration-cam, as were a few cursory thoughts about what we would be having for lunch.

A few more worries were enough to send a photo skittering onto the internet, where it was posted to This Place's Twitter timeline. Clever stuff.

Ben Aldred, director of This Place, had a few other ideas about what a Glasshole might think about. "Some people in office think about stacking up boxes. I personally use a a mechanical movement, like imagining I am making a tennis serve. We find the system works better when the user has their eyes open, because it's reading brain activity."

The team met while working with or alongside the advertising giant Saatchi, eventually leaving to start their own firm This Place, which works on user design for clients around the world.

This devs went on to design what they described as the "muscle and sinew" that connects Glass with the brain-wave reading device (actually the software that allows the two devices to talk to each other).

The pair contacted Stephen Hawking to see if he would be interested in using the app, but he said that he is happy with his own blink-to-speak box, unless This Place can prove its own system works faster.

And so onwards to the immortal question: how does this small startup plan to rake in the dosh?

"We didn't start the project to make money," Kirton said. "For us it's just about standing among giants, being among greatness. One of things I find most exciting is just looking at people and realising they look Borg-like. Our desire is to bypass that fear of putting tech close to our bodies." ®

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