US aerospace agency NASA has announced that it is developing a brain-monitoring hat for airline pilots to wear. The idea is that the bonce-clocking headset will know when pilots become "mentally overloaded" and help them to "realise" this.
The brain-titfers are being developed at NASA's Glenn Research Center using "functional near infrared spectroscopy" (fNIRS, apparently) and "other imaging technology". The spectroscope hats work by measuring blood flow in the cortex and the concentration of oxygen in the blood. NASA describes them as "non-invasive, safe, portable and inexpensive". The kit is being tried out on guinea-pig pilots in simulators at Glenn.
"No matter how much training pilots have, conditions could occur when too much is going on in the cockpit," said NASA biomedical engineer Angela Harrivel.
"What we hope to achieve by this study is a way to sensitively - and, ultimately, unobtrusively - determine when pilots become mentally overloaded ... Flying an aircraft involves multitasking that potentially can push the limits of human performance," she adds.
There's no word on just how the mindprobe hats would actually help a maxed-out pilot to cope. Presumably triggering flashing lights and a loud recorded voice repeatedly shouting "YOU ARE MENTALLY OVERLOADED! CALM DOWN!" wouldn't actually be of much assistance.
Perhaps some kind of mechanical arm able to slap a panicking flyboy round the chops or throw water in his face might be in order. NASA are obviously still working on this bit.
There's more from NASA on the Integrated Intelligent Flight Deck project - which oversees the brain-hat tech - here.®