QCon 2018 – Rethinking HCI with Neural Interfaces

Title: Rethinking HCI with Neural Interfaces
Speaker: Adam Berenzweig @madadam

See the table of contents for more blog posts from the conference.

Minority Report analysis

  • why need gloves to interface
  • ergonomics – tiring to hold arm up

History of UI Paradigm Shifts

  • Command line – we still use the command line; just not exclusively
  • mouse, graphics – original Apple. Design innovation; not just tech
  • minesweeper and solitaire built in so could learn how to use the mouse – right click for minesweeper and click/drag for solitarire
  • MIT wearable computing in 1993 paved way for Google Glass. [but successful]
  • Joysticks, gloves, body (Kinect), eye tracking, VR/AR headsets
  • Had audience raise hand if wearing a computer. Not many Apple watch people in the room
  • Future: tech is always there. It knows about the world around you and is always ready

Book recommendation: Rainbow’s End – an old man gets rejuvenated (or something) and comes back younger needing to learn new tech

Intro to Neural Interfaces

  • Interfaces devices to translate muscle movement into actions
  • Human input/output has high bandwidth compared to typing or the like. We think faster than we can relay information. Output constrained.
  • Myo – For amputee, arm where have electrode on arm that controls arm.
  • Neural interfaces have information would have sent to muscle or physical controller
  • Lots of stuff happens in the brain, but you don’t want all of it. You want the intentional part without having to filter out everything else. The motor cortex controls muscles so represents voluntarily control. Also don’t have to plan electrodes on brain.


  • Touch type without keyboard presence [not very practical as it is hard to touch type without seeing keys]
  • Mirrors intention of moving muscles even if physical attempt is blocked
  • VR/AR – more immersive experience

Designing for Neural Interfaces

  • Want to maximize control/minimize effort
  • Cognitive limits – what can people learn/retain
  • Mouse is two degrees of freedom, laser pointer is three. There is also six where control in space. Human body has ore than six degrees of freedom. Are humans capable of controlling an octopus
  • How efficient is the input. Compared to existing control devices
  • It is possible to control three cursors at once, but it is exhausting. Not a good design
  • Different people find different things intuitive. Which way is up?
  • Don’t translate existing UIs. Can evolve over time.

My take

Fun! Great mix of pictures, videos and concepts. I learned a lot. Would be interesting to see this vs the privacy/ethics track. Imagining what data it could have reading your mind/muscles.

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