July 12, 2012 at 3:39 PM ET
A company called Veritas Scientific has developed a helmet that it claims can help determine if a person has "malicious intent." The device uses a well-known, non-invasive technique and may help soldiers and police investigate more efficiently.
The technology is not new by a long shot — Electroencephalography (EEG) has been used for decades. EEGs measure electrical fields in the brain through the scalp, allowing for a quick and rough picture of brain activity without invasive probes or bulky machinery. But the readings aren't very precise, so they aren't able to tell exactly what part of the brain is producing that activity.
That's not a problem for the helmet Veritas has designed, which looks for one specific signal. Images flash onto the helmet's visor, right in front of the test subject's eyes, and when a picture appears that the subject recognizes, the EEG readings dip in a characteristic way.
If the image the person recognizes is a family member or local landmark, no problem. But if it's bomb materials or an enemy leader, that could be an indication that the person should be questioned further. And another battery of tests could determine whether the subject being question is attempting to deceive the interrogators.
The helmet does not "read your mind," of course: The brain activity tracked by the device is more like a blush or flinch — just a reflex. But the CEO of the company and others in the field suggested to IEEE Spectrum that there is still a risk of misuse.
Veritas says its still at the beginning of testing, and plans to add more measures to the helmet before pitching the device to the military.
Devin Coldewey is acontributing writer for msnbc.com. His personal website iscoldewey.cc.