In the Harry Potter books, a sentient “Sorting Hat” is used to access and divide up students at the Hogwarts school. While most would consider this a fun exercise to be left to books and movies, postdoctoral fellow Natalya Kos’myna and professor Pattie Maes at MIT Media Lab had a different take on things. They hypothesize that, if children believe that a hat like this is imbued with the ability to to access a student’s performance in a particular a subject matter, perhaps it can give encouragement in a way that isn’t normally available to teachers.
The aptly named “Thinking Cap” is equipped with an EEG headset and uses a brain-computer interface algorithm to recognize the brain patterns of a child, initially asking it to visualize a movement or an object. From there, the hat tells the child what he or she is imagining via an embedded Bluetooth speaker.
The idea here is that as the child begins to believe the Thinking Cap can actually access what’s going on in their head via mind reading, the hat can then more effectively offer praise for the task at hand and “thus positively influence their motivation and academic achievements.”
For example, if a hat that has actually read your mind says you that you’re doing well in particular activity, one would certainly be more likely to believe it than other random objects. The project — though still a work in progress — is an interesting concept that will eventually help students enhance their self-esteem.