If the thought of using a person's brainwaves to control a machine isn't quite enough to make the mind boggle, then mixing signals from multiple brains for the same purpose might just do the job. This far-fetched field of neuroscience is edging ever closer to real-world technology, with a number of recent research efforts achieving significant advances, with mind-controlled drone flight just one example. The latest step forward in this area sees the brains of separate animals hooked up and their combined motor and sensory information used for things like controlling a virtual arm, pattern recognition and even predicting the weather.
A telepresence robot developed at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) that can be controlled by thought may give people with severe motor disabilities a greater level of independence. Successfully put through its paces by 19 people scattered around Central Europe – nine of whom are quadriplegic and all of whom were hooked up to a brain-machine interface – the robot handled obstacle detection and avoidance on its own while the person controlling it gave general navigation instructions.
Mind-controlled prosthetics, drones and exoskeletons
are all very forward-thinking, but what about a more mundane use for
the technology? The BBC's "Mind Control TV" prototype hints at a future
where couch potatoes need not even lift the remote. Users can open an
app and select a program to watch.