Prior to researching this topic, I had no idea that IBM was involved at any level with Computer-Brain Interface (CBI). I was very interested to find that Gartner was so off in their ‘Hype Cycle of 2011′ prediction of IBM’s adoption and implementation of CBI. What was most interesting (puzzling) about this was that IBM CLEARLY defined their strategy, timeline and current status of CBI. Did Gartner not even check IBM’s site? What does this say for the rest of Gartner’s research?
Emerging technology from the Gartner Hype Cycle of 2011
The emerging technology from the Gartner Hype Cycle of 2011 (Fenn , 2011) that I chose is Computer-Brain Interface (CBI). I elected to pick the technology because Gartner anticipates that it will be more than ten years for the technology to be adopted, suggesting that the technology is out of the popular press and relevant only to firms with deep pockets and deep visions.
Company for which technology would be relevant
Identification, analysis, and recommendation
There are a handful of companies I considered candidates for developing CBI and integrating it into their businesses. Toyota has already developed a brain controlled wheelchair that is ’95 percent accurate’ (Hornyak, 2009), Guger Technologies allows users to input text using only their brains (Dillow, 2010), and a few others exist in this space. Interestingly, the company for which I believe the technology would be most relevant, IBM, has indicated a different timeframe from Gartner’s prediction – both in developing the technology as well as in implementing it.
My research showed that IBM:
- believes that CBI will take effect in five years (Hamm, 2011), not 10 as Gartner predicted
- is already working on technology for people to use their brains to interface with their everyday devices (Pachal, 2011), and;
- as far back as 2008, have developed strategic partnerships to use ‘brain-computer interfaces based on electroencephalography (EEG) technology in enterprise business markets and virtual worlds’ (Clarke, 2008)
CBI is relevant to IBM for a number of reasons, but I see a natural pairing with their latest ‘Grand Challenge’, Watson (IBM, 2012). CBI would integrate perfectly with Watson in a healthcare setting. Imagine a novice surgeon, for instance, operating in a remote part of the world, without medical training on par with that of the ‘West’, readying for a procedure such as a heart transplant. With a Computer-Brain Interface embedded with Watson technology, the surgeon could perform the operation seamlessly and with the same level of expertise shared by any world-class heart surgeon.
IBM is well on their way to not only building their own CBI technology, but also developing a proving ground unlike any other. Scientists and engineers at IBM’s Almaden Research Center have created the largest brain simulation to date on a supercomputer (Adee, 2009). Though still in its early stages, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) funded research will help scientists and computing engineers better understand human cognition and function and will certainly play a pivotal role in the crucial reverse-engineering of the human brain (Ganapati, 2010). Pairing this supercomputer with Watson and CBI will likely yield significant gains in both knowledge of the brain and its functions and the bottom-line of IBM.
In addition to research and internal development, IBM will more than likely follow its suit of snatching up smaller companies to fill a knowledge void of their own. While it is still early in CBI development and consumer-awareness, IBM has made some strategic partnerships, most notably with Emotiv (Emotiv), to explore ‘virtual training and learning, collaboration, development, design and sophisticated simulation platforms for industries such as enterprise and government’ (Clarke, 2008). It is still early, but given IBM’s penchant for acquiring patents, we will likely see a flurry of mergers and acquisitions, in addition to more partnerships, as the technology matures.
Experts have posited that computer-brain interfaces will be the next keyboards and mice (Pachal, 2011). The popular author Raymond Kurzweil has long been a cheerleader for the fusion of technology and humankind (Kurzweil, 2005). Gartner’s prediction of 10 years to CBI, contrasted with IBM’s forecast of five years, paints an interesting picture of just how far the public think the technology is along and how far it is actually along. Should we expect it in 5 years? 7 years? 10 years? We shall see.
Adee, S. (2009, November). IBM Unveils a New Brain Simulator. Retrieved from IEEE Spectrum Magazine: http://spectrum.ieee.org/computing/hardware/ibm-unveils-a-new-brain-simulator
Clarke, P. (2008, June 4). Emotiv signs up IBM to exploit brain-computer interface. Retrieved from Electric Engineering Times: http://www.eetimes.com/electronics-news/4192240/Emotiv-signs-up-IBM-to-exploit-brain-computer-interface
Dillow, C. (2010, March 8). The World’s First Commercial Brain-Computer Interface. Retrieved from Popular Science: http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2010-03/worlds-first-commercial-brain-computer-interface
Emotiv. (n.d.). Emotiv. Retrieved from Emotiv: http://www.emotiv.com
Fenn , J. (2011). 2011 Gartner Hype Cycle Special Report. Stamford, CT: Gartner, Inc.
Ganapati, P. (2010, August 16). Reverse-Engineering of Human Brain Likely by 2030, Expert Predicts. Retrieved from Wired.com: http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2010/08/reverse-engineering-brain-kurzweil/
Hamm, S. (2011, December 19). The IBM 5 in 5: Our forecast of five innovations that will alter the tech landscape within five years. Retrieved from Building a Smarter Planet: http://asmarterplanet.com/blog/2011/12/the-next-5-in-5-our-forecast-of-five-innovations-that-will-alter-the-landscape-within-five-years.html
Hornyak, T. (2009, July 2). Brain-Controlled Wheelchair Is “95 Percent Accurate”. Retrieved from National Geographic Society: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/07/090702-brain-controlled-wheelchair.html
IBM. (2012). The Next Grand Challenge. Retrieved from IBM: http://www-03.ibm.com/innovation/us/watson/what-is-watson/the-next-grand-challenge.html
Kurzweil, R. (2005). The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. New York: Viking.
Pachal, P. (2011, December 19). IBM Says We’ll Have Mind-Reading Computers Within Five Years. Mashable, Inc., pp. https://mashable.com/2011/12/19/ibm-mind-reading/.