Thought-Controlled Computers Closer Than We Think

BrainWe’ve gone from the mouse to Kinect-style gesture control in just thirty years. Might the next frontier in computer interfaces be controlling machines just by thinking about it?

A recent breakthrough from the University of Washington showed that when technology lets the brain control a device such as a computer-controlled robotic arm, the brain is behaving in the same way as if it was commanding the relevant muscles to carry out the act in reality. In other words, by thinking about kicking a ball, the area of the brain active in doing so behaves the same as if you were really kicking a ball.

That means that in brain/machine interaction, just thinking about an action might prompt a machine to do it for you. Mind-controlled technology itself isn’t new. Last year quadriplegic Cathy Hutchinson used a robotic arm to sip coffee from a bottle thanks to a sensor array connected to her brain that relayed commands to the arm via a computer.

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