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  • Writer's pictureKirra Pendergast

Brain-computer interface technology and Snap's NextMind Acquisition

In 2022 Snapchat's parent company, Snap Inc acquired NextMind, a neurotech firm based in Paris. This is a development in the tech world that's should be gaining more attention. While this move is an exciting step into augmented reality (AR), it's also something that parents and teachers should be aware of, given how fast technology is evolving and becoming a part of our children's lives. Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) herald a new era in technological advancement, offering a range of positive applications that extend far beyond conventional computing. These interfaces, by translating neural signals into commands, enable individuals, particularly those with mobility or speech impairments, to interact with and control computers, prosthetic limbs, or other devices, simply through their thoughts. This not only opens doors to greater independence and improved quality of life for differently-abled individuals but also enhances learning and gaming experiences, offering a more intuitive and immersive interaction with online environments.

What's NextMind and Why Does It Matter? 

NextMind specialises in brain-computer interface technology. Simply put, they've developed a way for people to control computers and AR/VR headsets using only their thoughts. Snap's plan is to incorporate this technology into their AR projects, like the Spectacle AR glasses. Imagine a world where you can make something happen online just by focusing on a virtual button – that's what we're looking at.

Why Should We Care? 

This technology is not just a futuristic fantasy; it's a reality, and it's likely that our kids will be interacting with it sooner rather than later. As parents and educators, it's essential to stay informed about these advancements. Understanding how AR and brain-computer interfaces work will help us guide our children and students in navigating these technologies safely and responsibly.

Safety and Privacy Concerns 

With such intimate technology used by organisation such as Snap, questions about privacy and data security naturally arise. It's crucial for us to discuss these aspects with our kids, teaching them about the importance of personal data privacy and the potential risks associated with new tech.

As we venture into this new era of interactive digital experiences, let's make sure we're equipped with the right knowledge to help our children use these technologies wisely.

It's not just about keeping up with the latest gadgets; it's about understanding the impact they can have on our lives and ensuring our kids are prepared for this online future.

Some Tips

As we've seen with the rapid integration of GenAI into our lives, technology is evolving at an unprecedented rate, and it's vital to stay informed and prepared. Here are some tips to ensure safety and privacy while using AR and VR technology:

  1. Educate About the Technology: It's essential to understand how AR and VR work, especially technologies like brain-computer interfaces. Knowledge about these technologies can help in recognizing their capabilities and limitations, making it easier to discuss their safe use.

  2. Discuss Online Privacy and Data Security: Engage in conversations about the importance of privacy. Explain how personal data can be collected and used, and the significance of consent in sharing information online.

  3. Set Boundaries and Usage Limits: Like with any screen time, it's crucial to set limits on the use of AR and VR devices. This helps in preventing overuse and ensures that kids have a balanced approach to technology.

  4. Monitor Content and Apps: Keep an eye on the apps and content accessible through AR and VR devices. Ensure they are age-appropriate and don't expose children to harmful content.

  5. Stay Updated on Safety Features: Manufacturers often update software to include new safety features. Regularly check for updates and be familiar with the safety settings available on the devices your children are using.

  6. Encourage Open Communication: Create an environment where children feel comfortable discussing their experiences and concerns about the technology they use. This open line of communication can be crucial in identifying and addressing potential issues early on.

  7. Be Aware of Physical Safety: Using VR headsets can sometimes lead to physical disorientation or accidents. Ensure there's a safe, clear space for using these devices, and educate kids about taking regular breaks to reduce strain.

  8. Use Parental Controls: Many AR and VR platforms offer parental controls. Use these features to manage and monitor your children's activity and to restrict access to inappropriate content.

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