A new patent application by Microsoft details a way to use bodily functions, such as brain activity, to mine cryptocurrency.
The application, entitled “Cryptocurrency System Using Body Activity Data” explains how a “brain wave or body heat emitted from the user when the user performs the task provided by an information service provider, such as viewing an advertisement or using certain internet services, can be used in the mining process.”
By tracking brainwaves when someone watches an advert, Microsoft hopes to use the data generated as a “proof-of-work.” This is the validation of a transaction, or the completion of a task, in a blockchain system, and the way in which creation of currency is validated in a cryptocurrency model.
"Instead of massive computation work required by some conventional cryptocurrency systems, data generated based on the body activity of the user can be proof-of-work, and therefore, a user can solve the computationally difficult problem unconsciously," the patent continues.
In order to access this validation data, the human user would need to have a sensor attached to, or installed in, their body.
Microsoft envisages users being rewarded for allowing their bodies to be monitored in this way by paying them in cryptocurrency for performing specific tasks.
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As well as brain waves and heat, the patent also suggests using "body fluid flow" and "organ activity and movement" to track a range of tasks including using social media, search engines, email, visiting websites, or using chatbots.
It remains to be seen what will happen with this patent; although it was published a month ago, it's still to be granted.
Even then, as The Register notes, large tech companies predominantly use patents as a means to defend against future copyright infringement, rather than directly turning them into products, so it is possible this will not see the light of day in the consumer space.