“Augmented Cognition,” the Darpa program to build computer interfaces that adapt to their users’ brains, has officially run its course. But efforts to build mind-reading PCs continue throughout the military establishment. Augmented Cognition relies on the idea that people have more than one kind of working memory, and more than one kind of attention; there are separate slots in the mind for things written, things heard and things seen. By monitoring how taxed those areas of the brain are, it should be possible to change a computer’s display to compensate. If people are getting too much visual information, send them a text alert. If they reading too much at once, present some of the data visually — in a chart or map.
The Air Force has tapped Design Interactive, Inc. to build a battlefield command-and-control system that works along these lines. It’s supposed to use EEG and eye-tracking monitors to “assess the operator’s actual cognitive state.” That way, the system can play around with its “information display” to “avoid cognitive bottlenecks before they occur.” And that’s just the start. Eventually, the company wants the program to “anticipate future mission state and operator functional state ahead of time,” too.