New Devices Grant Mind Control Over Your World: The Force is With You

mind control emotiv

The Emotiv headband grants mind control of the user’s environment. http://www.singularityworld.com/

Mind control is the central focus of a TED talk presented in July of 2010 by Tan Le, founder & CEO of Emotiv Lifescience, a bioinformatics company which uses electroencephalography (EEG) to identify biomarkers for various disorders and conditions.

Tan begins the talk by discussing how communication between people takes into account far more information than what is explicitly expressed, like body movement, facial expressions, and tone of voice. Communicating with a machine on the other hand involves a single, unambiguous command.  This leads to a roadblock within the industries of robotics, computer programming, cybernetics, and more:  How can a machine communicate more like a human being if it is unable to take into account all of the information outside the literal meaning of the words we use? To get around this dilemma scientists began merging both realms of interactions so that computers could respond to all forms of communicative interactions. This in turn has led to the power of mind control being granted to us mere mortals. But how?

Related Article: Merge Biology with Electronics: First True Cybernetic Tissue Created

One of the major difficulties behind creating a computer that can take into account all of the information exchanged during a human to human interaction is the very act of detection. The algorithms required to detect all of the information being exchanged must be extremely complex. Additionally, much of the information exchanged during human interaction can be perceived in wildly different ways due to variations in culture, humor, and other societal norms.  According to Tan, this is why researchers are skipping all of the vague information and going right to the source: the brain.

According to Tan,

Our brain is made up of billions of active neurons; around 170,000 kilometers of combined axon links. When these neurons interact, the chemical reaction emits an electrical impulse which can be measured.

So, we measure the electrical impulses emitted by the brain and create a universal map, or language, of the brain’s neuronal activity. Seems pretty straightforward, but fortunately for us critically thinking apes, the brain is not that simple. Tan goes onto explain that,

The majority of our functional brain is distributed over the outer surface area of the brain, and to increase the area that’s available for mental capacity the brain’s surface is highly folded. Now this cortical folding presents a significant challenge for interpreting surface electrical impulses. Each individual’s cortex is folded differently, very much like a fingerprint. So even though a signal may come from the same functional part of the brain, by the time the structure has been folded its physical location is very different between individuals, even identical twins.

So the language of normal human interaction is too vague, and the language of the brain is too complex. What was Tan and her team to do? Tan describes the breakthrough, explaining that,

our breakthrough was to crate an algorithm that unfolds the cortex so that we can map the signal closer to its source and therefore make it capable of working across a mass population.

mind control sensor array

Before mind control devices traditional sensory arrays like this one scanned the brain. http://www.wired.com

And this is where mind control begins to enter the scene. The creation of the algorithm gave Tan the necessary code to accurately map the brain’s signals, but the hardware presented a new challenge. Live brain scans traditionally use an array of sensors attached to every square inch of a person’s head using a conductive gel.  This method is extremely uncomfortable, and very expensive. To address this issue Tan and her team created a lightweight headset which uses no conductive gel, is wireless, and only takes a few minutes to attach to the head. The best part is that the device only costs a few hundred dollars, compared to around $10,000 for traditional sensor array helmets.  Combine the new device with Tan’s complex cortical algorithm and we are left with a relatively cheap headset that can read your brainwaves in real time. The brainwave signature can be used to influence objects, granting users mind control over the object as long as it is configured to read the brainwave signal.

Related Article: Electronic Brain Implants Increase Intelligence

Tan invites a person from the audience and demonstrates the miraculous mind control abilities afforded by her mind reading headset. The device takes a neutral scan of the user’s brain, and from there it’s all Jedi mind control training.  Select the action ‘pull’ on a computer, and imagine that the object on the computer screen is moving toward you for 10 seconds. After a 10 second scan is completed, every time you imagine the object moving toward you, it does exactly that. The same applies to more mentally complex actions like disappearing, multiplying, or growing larger.  After getting to know the device, you are systematically granted greater and greater mind control powers.

Tan completes her TED talk by showing some of the other capabilities of her device. For example, she showed that it could be used to turn lights on and off or close the drapes at home without moving a muscle. It can even be used to fly a toy helicopter or make online video games more realistic by having colors in the game change relative to your ongoing emotions. This all sounds amazing, but this was in 2010. Let’s fast forward nearly four years into the future to 2014.

Related Article: Awareness and Dealing with Rejection

The man you see is playing a game called Mindflex which scans his brain's awareness. www.cnn.com

The man you see is playing a game called Mindflex which scans his brain’s awareness. http://www.cnn.com

Although mind control technology is still in its infancy incredible progress has been made since Tan’s TED talk debuted. A great example of the leaps and bounds that have been made in the industry is presented in a recent NPR article. The article describes how Johnny Liu, a manager for the San Jose-based company NeuroSky, came into the KQED studio to show off his own unique pairing of mind control devices: NeuroSky’s MindWave Mobile headset, and the Orbit brain-controlled helicopter. Using these devices in conjunction with one another, Liu reveals how his level of awareness is the greatest influence on the effectiveness and stability of the helicopter’s flight. It is for this reason that this type of technology can be used to improve our mind control, not just to influence the outside world, but also ourselves.

These type of brain games allow users to practice being more calm, aware, and focused, while actually seeing the progress they have made in real-time.  Richard Warp, designer of NeuroDisco, a program which allows users to make music with their thoughts, explains that,

You’re doing the same thing as a meditator, a Buddhist monk might do. But maybe we, in the West, need a device to do it.

These types of mind control activities can be seen as games, but the practical application is clear. Mind control devices allow us to hone our control over our own minds by receiving direct feedback on our progress in the form of how strongly we are influencing the world around us. This type of increase in awareness has the incredible potential to allow users to explore their own internal capabilities and begin excising their brain in the same direct manner that we exercise our bodies today.

Related Article: Oculus Rift and Omni Treadmill, Gaming of the Future!

mind control video games

Video games and mind control serve as a release from the struggles of living in a difficult body. http://www.wired.com

Speaking of games, let’s explore an industry that will likely be one of the most heavily influenced by this technology: video games. Video games aren’t just awesome for their fun factor. Playing video games actually alters the brain, and provides myriad physical and psychological health benefits. Most of these benefits directly relate to the use of highly concentrated awareness. Awareness can be cultivated into greater control and efficiency using biosensors and mind control technology.

Still within the realm of video games, one of the most brilliant ways this technology can be used is by giving physically disabled people the opportunity to participate in and be a part of the world at large without such extreme physical difficulty and embarrassment (unfortunate, but that’s the society we live in). 15% of the entire world population, or 1 billion people, live with disabilities. This makes disabled people the world’s largest minority.

For a large number of those billion people, video games are the only form of societal interaction available. In a game it doesn’t matter if you have no legs, are paralyzed, or are psychologically impaired. Everyone starts out on equal footing in a video game. Mind control devices allow for even greater realism and control in the only world where disabled people won’t feel alone, hopeless, and stuck in a broken body. Consider as well that some disabled people are fully paralyzed but still retain complete lucidity and control of their brain. Fort the first time in the history of our planet, these people can be freed from their bodily imprisonment by being granted a new body which they can control with their mind alone.

Related Article: Starcraft as a Model for Future Interstellar Warfare

Another technological avenue to consider is that of cybernetics, where mind control technology has been used for years. Don’t have legs? No problem, here’s some robotic legs controlled by your brain. Lost your arm in a freak accident at Grandma’s house? No big deal, here’s a new mind controlled arm.

This is all just the tip of the iceberg. The technology is extremely young and yet new mind control gadgets are being released every day. The combinations are limitless as well. While mind control sounds exciting and fun, for fully paralyzed people that are basically brains in a useless body, a whole new life can be granted to them. I’m sure one day they will be able to control a fully mobile robot via mind control with all of their senses returned to them, even touch. The more we learn about our own minds, the more limitless our horizon’s become.

Who knows, maybe over time the use of these mind control devices will grant us actual force powers. Only time will tell. May the force be with you.

 

Sources:

http://www.ted.com/talks/tan_le_a_headset_that_reads_your_brainwaves.html

http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2014/01/21/263078049/brain-games-move-objects-with-your-mind-to-find-inner-calm

http://neurosky.com/products-markets/eeg-biosensors/hardware/

http://orbit.puzzlebox.info/

http://ericawarp.com/?projects=neurodisco

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120426114341.htm

http://theweek.com/article/index/241121/7-health-benefits-of-playing-video-games

http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=18

Of Cyborg Monkeys and New Hope for Amputees

 

The innovative breeze of 2013 carries a particularly interesting development in the field of Neuroscience.

A joint venture funded by DARPA, composed of a group of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, revealed promising results in a recent study when monkeys were successful in moving a robotic arm using solely the power of their mind.

The practical application and climax of this study, as if it weren’t exciting enough already, finally arrived this January, when a woman was able to operate an artificial arm in a wide range of angles using her brain alone.

Related Article: Robotic Legs Controlled by Your Brain

For the past 11 years researchers have been conducting a series of experiments involving the motor-cortex, a part of the brain which facilitates movement. A tiny electrode array was implanted in the motor cortices of monkeys, enabling the scientists to read neural activity in the form of electrical spikes. Using a model based approach, the scientists were able to calculate the desired instantaneous hand and arm direction based on the activity of a few hundred neurons.

Reading brain-activity enabled the scientists to accurately move the artificial limb in the correct direction and angle, exactly the way the brain normally signals a healthy flesh and blood arm. In this way they trained the monkeys to move the arms through biofeedback.

Related Article: Robotic Sense and Feel

The monkeys were chosen as test subjects due to their similar brain structure to humans. However, it can’t be helped but to wonder: What is the secret for convincing a monkey to operate a robotic arm? The answer is simple: Marshmallows.

By hanging the treat just out of the monkey’s reach, far enough so that they would need to use the robotic arm to reach it, scientists were able to “train” the monkeys in moving the robotic arm in a space and they were able to teach the monkeys to grip their treat.

The next question that comes to mind is how many monkey-arms were removed due to the experiment? Animal rights fighters – rest assured; No monkeys were hurt in the process.

Related Article: Bionic Hand That Can Feel

After a decade of data-mining, the scientists are ready to implant a brain computer interface (BCI), an electrode array, in 53 year old Jan Scheuermann who suffers from quadriplegia; completely paralyzed from the neck down. The outcome of a not-so-simple surgery was optimistic news to all.

For many amputees, lacking an arm does not necessarily mean the brain is damaged as well. The successful experiment described above makes it very easy for a person to control a prosthetic arm, as all that needs to be done is  to ‘think’ which way the arm should move, much in the same way you are operating the arm you are using to scroll down and read this article.

Jan’s reports of headaches quickly disappeared, and no sooner did she prove to be able to feed herself, and even high-five Professor Andrew B. Schwartz, a senior figure in the research. According to Jan, feeding herself was:

One small nibble for a woman, one giant bite for BCI.

While the results of the research are certainly a breakthrough, leaving neuroscientists to fantasize about a world of possibilities opening up, major flaws cannot be ignored.

Implanting the electrode array requires invasive surgery, involving a temporary removal of part of the skull. The degree of control created by the invasive BCI (Brain Computer Interface) is limited by the number of neurons recorded, currently at a few hundred. Non-invasive methods of reading brain signals, such as EEG, offer a much lower information rate and require much more training.

Another flaw that is evident by observing Ms. Scheuermann’s arm movement is a poor eye-arm coordination. Neuroscientists are still looking for a reasonable explanation for Ms. Scheuermann inability to catch a falling object while observing it. Curiously enough, she is able to do so when not looking directly at the object.

Regardless of those facts, the sweet taste of success should not be bittered: this is still the first time a human has been able to operate a robotic arm in so many degrees of freedom, using only the power of the mind.

So what’s next? Killer-coding-ninja monkeys using telepathy? Anyone?

Sources:

NYTimes: Monkeys Think, Moving Artificial Arm as Own

Lancet: Nueroprosthetic Control by Individual with Tetraplegia 

Invasive BCI UPMC: Woman with Quadraplegia Feeds Herself

Nature: Cortical Control of a Prosthetic Arm for Self-Feeding

Killer Coding Ninja Monkeys

 

Wondergressive: The Singularity is Nigh Upon Us

Wondergressive: Robotic Sense and Feel

Wondergressive: Bionic Hand That Can Feel

Wondergressive: Robotic Legs Controlled by Your Brain