It seems the age of telepathy is here – or at least it is when you hook up two people to their computers through the internet. Scientists at the University of Southampton in England have successfully beamed a message between two people, who didn’t have to say a word to communicate it.
How it works is quite simple. One person is strapped to an Electroencephalography (EEG) amplifier by electrodes stuck to their scalp – this measures the electrical activity in their brain. These cerebral signals are then digitized, so think about lifting their right arm becomes a “one” and thinking about lifting their left arm is a “zero”, for instance. The binary information is then transmitted over the internet from the first volunteer to the second volunteer, who are hooked up to their computers in a similar way.
The second PC translates the signal into flashing lights seen be the second volunteer. They don’t understand the message, but the electrodes measuring activity in their visual cortex feed their brain’s reaction to what they see into another computer that interprets the data to reveal whether the first person transmitted a zero or a one.
The research was carried out by scientists looking at the possibilities of brain-computer interfacing (BCI). This is where brain signals are captured and translated into commands that allow humans to control devices such as wheelchairs, robots or virtual reality environments. “This experiment came about through academic curiosity,” says Dr Christopher James of Southampton University’s Institute of Sound and Vibration Research.
James claims the experiment proves that brain-to-brain communication is possible. If so, it has the potential to help people with conditions such as “locked-in syndrome”. This is when someone can’t communicate – the patient is aware and awake, but unable to move or talk because neally all their voluntary muscles are paralyzed. And in the world of gaming, it could be a means to allow gamers to chat with each other.