We Already Have The Technology To Control Electronics With Our Minds

Everyone has probably imagined moving an object just with the power of thought. It turns out that the technology to do that has been around for at least a decade—and it's only getting more powerful.

Related: Scientists Have Helped a Paralyzed Man Get Movement Back

The Brain-Computer Interface

The gadgets that let users take control with their minds rely on a specialized headset that uses electroencephalography, or EEG. With just a few electrodes that sit on your scalp, the headset monitors your brain's electrical activity and uses it to control a device—whether that's a wheelchair or a toy racecar. Specifically, a computer crunches the data to determine the brainwave frequency at the moment: if you're zoning out or staring at a wall, your brainwaves are in an alpha state; if you're concentrating on something, they're in beta. The computer uses the difference between these two states as a very basic control mechanism: the device "goes" when you're concentrating, and stops when you stop. For example, during a demonstration by Stephen Sigurnjak with a modified Scalextric racecar set at the 2013 Lancashire Science Festival, attendees could put on a Neurosky Mindwave headset that allowed them to make the cars go faster just by concentrating.

Related: For Better Productivity, Work With Your Brainwave Cycles

Of course, like any new technology, it's far from perfect. During the racecar demonstration, Stephen Sigurnjak says, "There is an art to making the system work well: sometimes people find the cars going faster even though they didn't think they were concentrating. I found I made the cars go faster by doing the alphabet in my head; and could slow them down by looking at a blank wall. Everyone is a bit different." To concentrate for longer periods, like to control a wheelchair, can be taxing, and the interface isn't able to tell when a person is concentrating on moving the wheelchair or on avoiding a hazard up ahead—either way, the chair keeps on going. In the future, headsets may be able to detect more specific thoughts, such as "right" and "left," based on where they happen in the brain.

Related: Facial Recognition Technology: A Blessing or a Curse?

Give Your Thumbs A Rest

While the technology may not be ready to let you type an email or drive a car with your thoughts, it's plenty ready to help you have fun. The Star Wars Force Trainer II lets you move holograms with your mind, and a game called Mindflex challenges players to move a floating ball through a series of obstacles. The Emotiv headset can be used to do everything from to shooting fireballs in a video game to controlling a drone. Button-mashing is so last century.

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Watch And Learn: Our Favorite Videos About Mind-Controlled Toys

Playing Mindflex Duel

The hosts of Good Mythical Morning face off with this mind-controlled game.

Star Wars Force Trainer

Check out the original incarnation of this very cool mind-controlled toy.

People Fly A Brain-Controlled Helicopter

Fun, can definitely see the technology's weaknesses.

Written by Curiosity Staff January 24, 2017

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