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  • The maxim, "Know thyself" has been around since the ancient Greeks.

  • Some attribute this golden world knowledge to Plato, others to Pythagoras.

  • But the truth is it doesn't really matter which sage said it first,

  • because it's still sage advice, even today.

  • "Know thyself."

  • It's pithy almost to the point of being meaningless,

  • but it rings familiar and true, doesn't it?

  • "Know thyself."

  • I understand this timeless dictum as a statement about the problems,

  • or more exactly, the confusions, of consciousness.

  • I've always been fascinated with knowing the self.

  • This fascination led me to submerge myself in art,

  • study neuroscience, and later, to become a psychotherapist.

  • Today I combine all my passions as the CEO of InteraXon,

  • a thought-controlled computing company.

  • My goal, quite simply, is to help people become more in tune with themselves.

  • I take it from this little dictum, "Know thyself."

  • If you think about it,

  • this imperative is kind of the defining characteristic of our species, isn't it?

  • I mean, it's self-awareness

  • that separates Homo sapiens from earlier instances of our mankind.

  • Today we're often too busy

  • tending to our iPhones and iPods to really stop and get to know ourselves.

  • Under the deluge of minute-to-minute text conversations,

  • e-mails, relentless exchange of media channels

  • and passwords and apps and reminders and Tweets and tags,

  • we lose sight of what all this fuss is supposed to be about in the first place:

  • Ourselves.

  • Much of the time we're transfixed

  • by all of the ways we can reflect ourselves out into the world.

  • And we can barely find the time to reflect deeply back in on our own selves.

  • We've cluttered ourselves up with all this.

  • And we feel like we have to get far, far away to a secluded retreat,

  • leaving it all behind.

  • So we go far away to the top of a mountain,

  • assuming that perching ourselves on a piece

  • is bound to give us the respite we need to sort the clutter, the chaotic everyday,

  • and find ourselves again.

  • But on that mountain where we gain that beautiful peace of mind,

  • what are we really achieving?

  • It's really only a successful escape.

  • Think of the term we use, "Retreat."

  • This is the term that armies use when they've lost a battle.

  • It means we've got to get out of here.

  • Is this how we feel about the pressures of our world,

  • that in order to get inside ourselves,

  • you have to run for the hills?

  • And the problem with escaping your day-to-day life

  • is that you have to come home, eventually.

  • So when you think about it,

  • we're almost like a tourist visiting ourselves over there.

  • And eventually, that vacation's got to come to an end.

  • So my question to you is,

  • can we find ways to know ourselves without the escape?

  • Can we redefine our relationship with the technologized world

  • in order to have the heightened sense of self-awareness that we seek?

  • Can we live here and now in our wired web

  • and still follow those ancient instructions, "Know thyself?"

  • I say the answer is yes.

  • And I'm here today to share a new way

  • that we're working with technology to this end,

  • to get familiar with our inner self like never before --

  • humanizing technology and furthering that age-old quest of ours

  • to more fully know the self.

  • It's called thought-controlled computing.

  • You may or may not have noticed

  • that I'm wearing a tiny electrode on my forehead.

  • This is actually a brainwave sensor

  • that's reading the electrical activity of my brain

  • as I give this talk.

  • These brainwaves are being analyzed and we can see them as a graph.

  • Let me show you what it looks like.

  • That blue line there is my brainwave.

  • It's the direct signal being recorded from my head, rendered in real time.

  • The green and red bars show that same signal displayed by frequency,

  • with lower frequencies here

  • and higher frequencies up here.

  • You're actually looking inside my head as I speak.

  • These graphs are compelling, they're undulating,

  • but from a human's perspective, they're actually not very useful.

  • That's why we've spent a lot of time

  • thinking about how to make this data meaningful to the people who use it.

  • For instance,

  • what if I could use this data to find out how relaxed I am at any moment?

  • Or what if I can take that information

  • and put it into an organic shape up on the screen?

  • The shape on the right over here

  • has become an indicator of what's going on in my head.

  • The more relaxed I am,

  • the more the energy's going to fall through it.

  • I may also be interested in knowing how focused I am,

  • so I can put my level of attention into the circuit board on the other side.

  • And the more focused my brain is,

  • the more the circuit board is going to surge with energy.

  • Ordinarily, I would have no way of knowing how focused or relaxed I was

  • in any tangible way.

  • As we know, our feelings about how we're feeling

  • are notoriously unreliable.

  • We've all had stress creep up on us without even noticing it

  • until we lost it on someone who didn't deserve it,

  • and then we realize that we probably should have checked in with ourselves

  • a little earlier.

  • This new awareness opens up vast possibilities

  • for applications that help improve our lives and ourselves.

  • We're trying to create technology that uses the insights

  • to make our work more efficient, our breaks more relaxing

  • and our connections deeper and more fulfilling than ever.

  • I'm going to share some of these visions with you in a bit,

  • but first I want to take a look at how we got here.

  • By the way, feel free to check in on my head at any time.

  • (Laughter)

  • My team at InteraXon and I

  • have been developing thought-controlled application for almost a decade now.

  • In the first phase of development,

  • we were really enthused by all the things we could control with our mind.

  • We were making things activate, light up and work just by thinking.

  • We were transcending the space between the mind and the device.

  • We brought to life a vast array of prototypes and products

  • that you could control with your mind,

  • like thought-controlled home appliances

  • or slot-car games or video games or a levitating chair.

  • We created technology and applications that engaged people's imaginations,

  • and it was really exciting.

  • And then we were asked to do something really big for the Olympics.

  • We were invited to create a massive installation

  • at the Vancouver 2010 winter Olympics,

  • were used in Vancouver,

  • got to control the lighting on the CN Tower,

  • the Canadian Parliament buildings and Niagara Falls

  • from all the way across the country using their minds.

  • Over 17 days at the Olympics, 7,000 visitors from all over the world

  • actually got to individually control the light

  • from the CN Tower, parliament and Niagara in real time

  • with their minds from across the country, 3,000 km away.

  • So controlling stuff with your mind is pretty cool.

  • But we're always interested in multitiered levels of human interaction.

  • And so we began looking into inventing thought-controlled applications

  • in a more complex frame than just control.

  • And that was responsiveness.

  • We realized that we had a system

  • that allowed technology to know something about you.

  • And it could join into the relationship with you.

  • We created the responsive room

  • where the lights, music and blinds adjusted to your state.

  • They followed these little shifts in your mental activity.

  • So as you settled into relaxation at the end of a hard day,

  • on the couch in our office,

  • the music would mellow with you.

  • When you read, the desk lamp would get brighter.

  • If you nod off, the system would know, dimming to darkness as you do.

  • We then realized that if technology could know something about you

  • and use it to help you,

  • there's an even more valuable application than that.

  • That you could know something about yourself.

  • We could know sides of ourselves that were all but invisible

  • and come to see things that were previously hidden.

  • Let me show you an example of what I'm talking about here.

  • Here's an application that I created for the iPad.

  • So the goal of the original game Zen Bound is to wrap a rope around a wooden form.

  • So you use it with your headset.

  • The headset connects wirelessly to an iPad or a smartphone.

  • In that headset, you have fabric sensors on your forehead and above the ear.

  • In the original Zen Bound game,

  • you play it by scrolling your fingers over the pad.

  • In the game that we created, of course,

  • you control the wooden form that's on the screen there with your mind.

  • As you focus on the wooden form,

  • it rotates.

  • The more you focus, the faster the rotation.

  • This is for real.

  • This is not a fake.

  • What's really interesting to me though

  • is at the end of the game, you get stats and feedback about how you did.

  • You have graphs and charts that tell you how your brain was doing --

  • not just how much rope you used or what your high score is,

  • but what was going on inside of your mind.

  • And this is valuable feedback

  • that we can use to understand what's going on inside of ourselves.

  • I like to call this "intra-active."

  • Normally, we think about technology as interactive.

  • This technology is intra-active.

  • It understands what's inside of you

  • and builds a sort of responsive relationship

  • between you and your technology

  • so that you can use this information to move you forward.

  • So you can use this information to understand you in a responsive loop.

  • At InteraXon --

  • intra-active technology is one of our really defining mandates.

  • It's how we understand the world inside and reflect it outside

  • into this tight loop.

  • For example, thought-controlled computing

  • can teach children with ADD how to improve their focus.

  • With ADD, children have a low proportion of beta waves for focus states

  • and a high proportion of theta states.

  • So you can create applications that reward focused brain states.

  • So you can imagine kids playing video games with their brain waves

  • and improving their ADD symptoms as they do it.

  • This can be as effective as Ritalin.

  • Perhaps even more importantly,

  • thought-controlled computing can give children with ADD

  • insights into their own fluctuating mental states,

  • so they can better understand themselves and their learning needs.

  • The way these children will be able to use their new awareness to improve themselves

  • will upend many of the damaging and widespread social stigmas

  • that people who are diagnosed as different are challenged with.

  • We can peer inside our heads

  • and interact with what was once locked away from us,

  • what once mystified and separated us.

  • Brainwave technology can understand us, anticipate our emotions

  • and find the best solutions for our needs.

  • Imagine this collected awareness of the individual

  • computed and reflected across an entire lifespan.

  • Imagine the insights that you can gain from this kind of second sight.

  • It would be like plugging into your own personal Google.

  • On the subject of Google,

  • today you can search and tag images

  • based on the thoughts and feelings you had while you watched them.

  • You can tag pictures of baby animals as happy,

  • or whatever baby animals are to you,

  • and then you can search that database, navigating with your feelings,

  • rather than the keywords that just hint at them.

  • Or you could tag Facebook photos

  • with the emotions that you had associated with those memories

  • and then instantly prioritize the streams that catch your attention,

  • just like this.

  • Humanizing technology is about taking what's already natural

  • about the human-tech experience

  • and building technology seamlessly in tandem with it.

  • As it aligns with our human behaviors,

  • it can allow us to make better sense of what we do

  • and, more importantly, why.

  • Creating a big picture out of all the important little details

  • that make up who we are.

  • With humanized technology we can monitor the quality of your sleep cycles.

  • When our productivity starts to slacken, we can go back to that data

  • and see how we can make more effective balance between work and play.

  • Do you know what causes fatigue in you or what brings out your energetic self,

  • what triggers cause you to be depressed

  • or what fun things are going to bring you out of that funk?

  • Imagine if you had access to data

  • that allowed you to rank on a scale of overall happiness

  • which people in your life made you the happiest,

  • or what activities brought you joy.

  • Would you make more time for those people? Would you prioritize?

  • Would you get a divorce?

  • (Laughter)

  • What thought-controlled computing can allow you to do

  • is build colorful layered pictures of our lives.

  • And with this,