Monday, June 16, 2008

What were they thinking? Mind control in Second Life

When I was 8 or 9 I remembered watching some PBS show on the brain. In one segment, a guy with a big mustache had wires attached to his head and, according to the monotoned narrator, he made a model train run using the electrical activity of his brain waves. It was a rather memorable, if unspectacular, display of technology even by the pre-Star Wars standards of imagining golly gosh science.

Now, a few unspecified decades later, comes word that those brain waves can be put to more useful uses than running model trains a few seconds at a time.

Researchers at Keio University in Japan (soon to award Bono an honorary doctorate) have demonstrated a system that enables a user to move an avatar in the virtual world Second Life and to engage the avatars of others in voice chat...using only brainwaves of their sensory-motor cortex.

Of importance, the demonstration (which involved a volunteer with a muscle disorder) may hold a great deal of promise for motion-impaired people.

Of note, it may also hold the promise of further developing efficient brain-computer interfaces for other uses ...who needs voice activated phone dialing if you can just think about ordering a pizza and have it delivered in 30 minutes?

Of concern, who has access to your brainwave signatures and how they relate to your behavior?

YouTube video of demonstration here

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