There’s a fantastic article over at The Neurophilosopher’s Blog on augmented cognition – technology that integrates with our cognitive abilities to extend our capabilities.
We live in a time in which we are overwhelmed by information obtained from multiple sources, such as the internet, television, and radio. We are usually unable to give our undivided attention to any one source of information, but instead give ‘continuous partial attention’ to all of them by constantly flitting between them. The limitations of cognitive processes, particularly attention and working memory, place a ceiling on the capacity of the brain to process and store information. It is these processes that some researchers are aiming to enhance with augmented cognition, an emerging field which aims to use computational technology to enhance human performance in various tasks by overcoming the bottlenecks in processes such as attention and memory.
AugCog, as it is sometimes known, is now a top priority for military and aerospace companies.
They are starting to develop technology that takes account of the operator’s psychological state and adapts, so it can be used as efficiently as possible.
For example, the technology could monitor the brain so a visor would display only essential information if the person is under pressure.
In an ingenious twist on this sort of research, researchers recently developed a device which monitors other people’s faces for emotion and alerts the user to their current state.
This would be particularly useful for people who have trouble reading facial expressions, such as people with autism or people who have suffered certain forms of brain injury.
The Neurophilosopher’s article is a fantastic tour of how this technology is starting to take advantage our of psychological strengths to make up for the weaknesses, using examples from projects in development and researchers in the field.
The article also has a slick DARPA funded video (downloadable version here) that advertises the field and gives a sci-fi flavoured view of the cognitively augmented future.