When Apps Know Too Much

Posted by Erika Owen

Apps are cool—we all love getting music suggestions and flinging birds from catapults with the swipe of a finger. The information we give out to obtain these apps is effortless. Email? No problem. Birthday? Demographics. But, what about when those apps start getting too close to your thoughts?

The X-Wave Interface Device ($100) for the iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch gets in your head—literally. This device lets you control your handheld technology by wearing a headset and simply passing a thought through your pretty little noggin. Here’s how it’s done:

Currently, only two apps can be used with this technology: X-Wave Visualizer and X-Wave Tunes. The Visualizer app allows users to see graphic representations of their brainwaves and participate in focus and meditation training. The Tunes app allows the user’s brainwaves to sync with their music preferences. You even have the option of syncing and comparing brainwaves/music preferences with friends and family! Is this a techie’s wet dream, or just crossing the line? Will we be able to stop exposure to the information we’d rather keep to ourselves? Not to mention the convenience factor. When will we get to the point that we can control everything with a headset? No more grocery shopping—or human interaction, for that matter—there’ll be an app that can do that for you.

It’s also important to take into consideration the everyday technology that the X-Wave could potentially be digging an early grave for. The touch screen is a sought after addition for phones, music players, and kiosks, among many other technologies. No more finger-swiping those birds into the boulders. Visualize the scene in your head and think a plan of action. Done. You’ve just beaten a level of Angry Birds without lifting a finger.

Is the X-Wave headset taking user control to a completely new and unnecessary level or is it a good thing for technology to be reaching points like this? What types of new apps would this technology open up that we’ve never experienced before?

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8 responses to “When Apps Know Too Much

  1. After first reading this post my thought was: “This is awesome!” Yet, after watching that somewhat painful video, I’m more than skeptical. I can’t even begin to imagine how rife with bugs this technology could be. How can it distinguish a certain thought from another? I don’t know about other people, but my head is usually processing a large amount of thoughts at once. Will this app be able to keep up? As for what kind of apps can be launched from this, my first thought was matchmaking. It’s easy to visualize, find your soulmate based on how compatible your brain waves are! Next step would be a virtual first date…

  2. Michael Rutledge

    I don’t trust anything that runs off of a single AAA battery. When I was a kid my parents bought me the ‘Jedi Force Trainer’ which had a similar concept. Put on a goofy looking headset and focus hard enough for a plastic ball to magically rise in the air. You could fool the “brainwave technology” by simply scrunching all the muscles in your face together. After watching that painfully awkward infomercial for the X-wave I’m VERY skeptical about its ability to sense brainwaves. If it can that’s awesome… but it probably can’t.

  3. I’m skeptical, too. Think we can convince the J-School to buy one so we can test it for false advertisement? That’s journalism related… right?

    It’s crazy to think how far communications and information-gathering is going. Forget print and online media–use a headset to simply think about an issue and get all of the feedback you’d ever want. I honestly hope we never get to that point. We’d all be out of jobs.

  4. Kelly Hendricks

    I’m with Alyssa. At first, I was really interested and then the video threw me off. I am also someone who has a lot of thoughts going on at once so I’m not so sure this application could keep up. And Erika, I hope it doesn’t get to this point either, I definitely want to get a job!

  5. I’m curious as to what happens when a person’s thought process gets interrupted? What if they change brainwaves so dramatically the music selection can’t keep up? While this app has great potential, I feel that it reduces a person’s decision making skills as well. All the little decisions that we make on a daily basis make connections in our brains. If we makes strides in eradicating this need, where will our decision making skills be in the future?

  6. Good point! I hadn’t even thought about this. This app has so much more relevance than just in the journalism technology world. When I first saw it, I immediately thought of information gathering and the extinction of other news obtaining apps.

    There is so much more creepiness to this app than I thought.

  7. I agree with everyone on this one. The technology is undeniably amazing, but I’m still pretty skeptical as to how effective it is and of the impact it will have on our society. I agree with Erika that technologies like this are just one step closer to a total demise of human interaction. If you’ve ever taken any sort of psychology or sociology course, you know that we as humans need and crave these types of interactions, so having them disappear entirely would be terrible news for everyone.

  8. Well it would give a new meaning to hands free on the road while driving, but the irony is that we would be even more unfocused in the process. I can see this getting out of hand and being used poorly, but that can be said about any new technology.

    But I have so much ADD that I don’t know about this for me.

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