The worlds of reality and science fiction are getting more and more similar all the time. If you want proof, check out this latest piece of news from the University of Washington.
For the first time in history, scientists successfully conducted an experiment in which one person successfully controls the motions of another person. One researcher was able to send brain signals via the internet to control the hand motions of another researcher.
The masterminds behind the experiment are researchers Rajesh Rao and Andrea Stucco. Rao has written a textbook on brain-to-brain interfaces. Scientists have had success with brain-to-brain interfaces in the past, primarily with rodents, but this experiment was the first in which two human brains were connected with the technology.
“It was both exciting and eerie to watch an imagined action from my brain get translated into actual action by another brain,” Rao said. “This was basically a one-way flow of information from my brain to his. The next step is having a more equitable two-way conversation directly between the two brains.”
Rao, Stucco and their team used electroencephalography, called EEG, to record brain signals. The EEG recordings were then transmitted to computers, which transcribed them into code, and sent via the internet to the other user’s computer. The recipient’s computer then transcribed the code back to a brain signal, which caused the recipient to act out the original signal sent from the other participant.
In this instance, the brain-to-brain interface was used to play a video game. Rao looked a computer screen that had a video game being displayed on it. When Rao was supposed to press the space bar to fire a canon in the game, he would envision doing so in his mind. Rao’s impulse was recorded and sent to fellow researcher Andrea Stocco, who moments later would involuntarily press the space bar on his keyboard.
“The Internet was a way to connect computers, and now it can be a way to connect brains,” Stocco said. “We want to take the knowledge of a brain and transmit it directly from brain to brain.”
University of Washington psychologist Chantel Prat commented on the breaking research. She anticipates a nervous reaction from some in the public.
“I think some people will be unnerved by this because they will overestimate the technology,” she said. “There’s no possible way the technology that we have could be used on a person unknowingly or without their willing participation.”
Although the interface is in its beginning stage, Stucco anticipates that it could be used for helpful causes in the future. For example, he says the technology could be used to land a plan if a pilot has become disabled. Stucco also said that disabled people could use the interface to communicate their desires for something, such as food or water. The interface would work even if two people didn’t speak the same language.
Welcome to the future, everyone.