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At the moment, the thought helmet concept consists of 128 sensors buried in a soldier´s helmet. Soldiers would need to think in clear, formulaic ways, which is similar to how they are already trained to talk. The key challenge to making the system work is a software system that can read an electroencephalogram (EEG) generated by the sensor data, and pick out when a soldier is thinking words, and what those words are.
Because the brain is a complex system and generates such large amounts of data, researchers must also make improvements in computing power. Soldiers will also have to be trained to think "loudly" to make it easier for the system to pick out their words from the brain´s background noise. Also, every individual´s EEG signals are a little different, so users and computers will have to be calibrated so that computers recognize each person´s unique mental pattern.
For people concerned about the ethics of the technology, Elmar Schmeisser, the Army neuroscientist overseeing the program, reassures that the technology will not allow mind-reading. As he explains, since every user has to be trained with the system, it would be impossible to use the technology against an individual´s will and without their cooperation.
Instead, the researchers are interested in potential civilian benefits. One such application might be a Bluetooth headpiece which could read speakers´ thoughts and transmit them to the person they´re calling - eliminating those loud, one-sided conversations in public.