What if the technology existed to translate our brain waves to text or drawings, i.e., “Mind to Text”?
Would that change the products we see in the marketplace, and the way we define, build and execute our business processes? You bet it would! Sound like science fiction? Think again (and if you think that thought in a few short years you can tweet it directly from your brain to your followers without typing a word!).
A team at the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute of the University of California at Berkeley have developed a prototype algorithm that translates brain waves into words. Experiments were carried out on 15 patients whose electroencephalograph (EEG) signals were recorded while hearing a set of words.
The team found that continuous auditory representations, such as the speech spectrogram, could be accurately reconstructed from measured EGG signals. The quality of the reconstructed text was highest for sound features most critical to speech intelligibility, which enabled decoding of individual spoken words.
This work can lead to prosthetic devices for the mute. It can also to devices that can be used to directly records thoughts and translate them into text or, with further research, drawings.
For more on this read the article Reconstructing Speech from Human Auditory Cortex
How much and in what ways can we prepare for the ever-increasing pace of technology change so that we can continue to deliver successful customer outcomes when customer expectations change at an ever increasing pace? How do we identify when a process or a product needs to accommodate a radical new technology?
One principle for sustainable business leadership is that, for an organization to have an edge over its competitors, it doesn’t need to be at the head of the pack with the most advanced technology available. That simply costs too much to be sustainable by any business, and sets up expectations by customers that are likely to be unsustainable as well. A company’s products and services only need to be a bit better than most if not all of its competitors, and that edge needs to be consistently maintained to stay ahead of the competition over an extended period of time. Trading back and forth with others as the front runner with each release of new software, new hardware, new processes, etc. won’t put an organization out front as the leader in people’s minds. What will do that is consistently standing out as better than competitors – think Apple, or Southwest Airlines, for example.
Take video cards for instance, which is admittedly a niche type project primarily aimed at the PC gaming community. Radeon and Nvidia have traded back and forth year after year, model after model, for benchmark leadership. Is one considered far superior to the other? Depends on who you ask and when you ask them relative to those company’s product release calendars.
Just how much effort should companies that are committed to the Outside-In approach dedicate to staying up with disruptive technologies like “Mind to Text”, or in, for example, Otis Elevator’s case, teleportation, which is in the earliest stages of research (e.g., see Scientists teleport Schrodinger's cat)? Or what about the ability to “cloak” objects, making them invisible? See the video test of the carbon nanotube-enabled technology at Watch 'Mirage Effect' Work As Invisibility Cloak! What might the applications of that technology be, aside from the obvious military ones?
While these disruptive technologies appear to be far from practical application, there are others that are indeed just over the horizon, some coming at us so quickly some of us might be surprised when they start showing up in products, versus product concepts, sooner rather than later (e.g., see iPhone 5 Concept With Laser Keyboard And Holographic Display).
So how should companies position themselves as they see disruptive technologies like “Mind to Text”, or holographic keyboards and displays, or invisibility move closer to reality? And how do they judge when it’s time to take the leap beyond concept into product launch? Sure, standard financial analyses are important and necessary. But what about customer expectations and needs, and also the risk that one competitor or another is going to be there first and be the one to set the new level of customer expectation, and create a need that customers didn’t even know they had (think Apple… again)?
I don’t have the answers, but whatever they were yesterday, they may be different tomorrow!
_Mark is a senior change leader with a focus on delivering integrated, end-to-end change to all elements of the business engine: strategy, people, process and technology. During his 25-plus year career, Mark has worked in numerous industries, including high-tech manufacturing, telecommunications, insurance and financial services.