It sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but for the past few years, researchers have tapped into brain waves to control everything from video games to wheelchairs. They are beginning to use computers to decipher our thoughts, too.
I received an e-mail yesterday from a reader named Brad asking me for more details on an item listed in my recent story 10 technologies that will change the world in the next 10 years
The story listed the most important items that Cisco chief futurist Dave Evans predicts will impact us in the decade to come. Brad was interested in item No. 9 which I called "Yes, there's a cure for that" The story said, “Today we have mind-controlled video games and wheelchairs, software by Intel that can scan the brain and tell what you are thinking and tools that can actually predict what you are going to do before you do it.”
Brad asks: Do you have references you can provide for the Intel Software and the mind controlled items?
Good question. I’ve written about mind-controlled software and games a little bit. It’s based on a technology called electroencephalogram (EEG) and the most well known commercial producer of a headset that uses EEG is a company called Emotive.
By using that headset, other companies have developed things like mind-controlled video games, in which your thoughts control the game, not a mouse, keyboard, joystick or gesture-based device. One company that has commercial mind-controlled games on the market using the Emotive headset is Mind Technologies.
Here's a video from September that demonstrates games from Mind Technologies.
EEG was also the basis of a mind-controlled wheelchair developed by in the University of Zaragoza and demonstrated in 2009. That same year, Toyota also demonstrated a mind-controlled wheelchair also using an EEG cap
Here's a 17-second clip if you just want to briefly see Toyota's wheelchair.
Here's the video from UofZ that offers a somewhat technical explanation of how it works.
Intel and Carnegie made news about a year ago with its NeuroSys project. This uses EEG and a few other such technologies like functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) so that a computer can translate thoughts into words. It's not ready for practical uses yet, but it's amazing all the same.
Here’s the video.
Earlier this year, researchers at The University of Western Ontario from The Centre for Brain and Mind published research in Journal of Neuroscience of how they used fMRI to determine the action a person was planning, a few moments before the action took place.
Take a look:
So there you have it, Brad. I offer a rundown of technology demonstrations that allows our minds to control devices and for computers to read our minds. Mind blowing, isn't it?