Cognitive Daily

Japanese researchers have found a way to use a human brain image to control a robot.

While this isn’t exactly “mind control” — the human still has to physically move his body in order to create the proper brain image, it’s a fascinating example of how things might work in the future. There are still quite a few obstacles to overcome, however. An MRI machine is a huge device, and it must be operated in a clean room away from sources of magnetic interference. It’s not like you could use this thing to drive your car.

Also, the headline on the news story is misleading: “Brain waves” are not being used to control the robot — an MRI measures blood flow inside the brain.

(via slashdot)

Comments

  1. #1 Jake Young
    May 25, 2006

    That was kind of my concern about this work. While I am impressed that they can use fMRI to do something useful, fMRI is not going to be the likely strategy over the long term for human-computer interfaces. It is simply too energy, space, and everything else consuming.

    As an alternative I think that the sort of direct recording implants that they are using at Brown in the motor cortices of spinal patients are much more likely to have positive results.

    Here is an example:
    http://www.brown.edu/Administration/News_Bureau/2001-02/01-098.html

  2. #2 Vaughan
    May 25, 2006

    So in the near- or not-so-far-future, could someone set off a bomb just with their brian? Am I the only one who worries about this?

  3. #3 vaughan
    May 25, 2006

    Sorry, I meant “So in the near- or not-so-far-future, could someone set off a bomb just with their brain? Am I the only one who worries about this?”

  4. #4 Peter Hollo
    May 25, 2006

    So in the near- or not-so-far-future, could someone set off a bomb just with their vaughan? Am I the only one who worries about this?

  5. #5 Peter Hollo
    May 25, 2006

    etc. Haha.

    Anyway. I suppose the above scenario is a worry, but then you could imagine a bomb that was set off via some small physical movement too – radio-controlled bombs are scary whether they interface with a brain or not, so I’m not sure this is as radical as all that…

  6. #6 Markk
    May 26, 2006

    –Sorry, I meant “So in the near- or not-so-far-future, could someone set off a bomb just –with their brain? Am I the only one who worries about this?”

    Aside from fully automated time bombs and things like land mines, aren’t all bombs set off by someones brain? How is this different?

  7. #7 Peter Hollo
    May 26, 2006

    I guess Vaughan is quite reasonably spun out by the fact that someone might be tied up in a cell somewhere, or just walking along the street, and could, by remote control, simply set off a bomb… Still, one imagines they’d need some sensor that read their brain patterns, somewhere near them, so in the end it’s not really much different to having a physical radio-control device in their pocket or whatever…

  8. #8 Alan Pritt
    May 26, 2006

    What happens if one just imagines the bodily movements? Since this activates the same regions of the brain, wouldn’t it have the same effect?

  9. #9 Dave Munger
    May 26, 2006

    Alan: I think you’re right that some of the same regions of the brain will be activated, but clearly there are differences: if there weren’t, then how would we distinguish between imagining movement and actually moving? Consider when you perform a familiar task like typing or riding a bike. Are you really actively thinking about all the things your body is doing, or are you consciously concerning yourself only with the larger issues, like where you want to go or the ideas you’re writing about? It’s probably more difficult to imagine typing this sentence, letter by letter, than to actually type it.

    Which begs the question: will a “mind control” interface ever be better than traditional interfaces like keyboards and mice? Perhaps in the long term, we could just imagine the words, not the physical typing process, and they would just appear on the screen, but perhaps even a sophisticated interface like that would make a lot of “typos,” and we’d end up spending so much time making corrections that we’d all just want to go back to our keyboards.

  10. #10 Alan Pritt
    May 27, 2006

    On the subject of accuracy, I find my typing skills are many times more accurate when I’m copying text than when I’m typing straight from my head. If this is true generally, it would suggest that many typos are caused quite early on in the thinking process. Perhaps, like the ‘ums’ and ‘ers’ in speech. If this is the case, mind control typing may actually be prone to more typos.

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