Brain scanning computer system takes over the work of stressed multitaskers

Oliver Sved /

Researchers are investigating other mental states that could be measured.

Researchers at MIT and Tufts University are creating a computer program that detects when users are stressed out from multitasking, and then kicks in to help them with tasks, according to a report by ExtremeTech. The system could potentially be used to help pilots operate unmanned aerial vehicles.

The scientists used brain-scanning technology, called functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS), to determine when a person is multitasking, ExtremeTech reported. If Brainput detects that someone is trying to process too much at once, it kicks in to assist with the work. In one experiment conducted, an operator had to navigate robots through a maze. Once Brainput determined that the subject was multitasking, it commanded the robots to use their own sensors to help with navigation.

Going forward, the research team will investigate other mental states that can be reliably measured using fNIRS, Technology Review reports. 

The Pentagon has been interested in ways to monitor how troops fare in combat situations to minimize stress. The U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command is seeking small business proposals on how to create stress sensors powered by the soldiers who wear them. It has also solicited ideas on ways to develop commercial products that carry out real-time monitoring of brain chemistry.

(Image via Oliver Sved /