New technologies make human dreams come true replacing psychic abilities, magicians and magic sticks. Now it’s turn of space management with the power of mind.
«Where is the power, bro?»
12 July of 2014, Sao Paolo, Brazil. By hitting the ball Juliano Pinto has opened the world football championship. And there were nothing strange if not the fact that six years ago the brazil athlete Juliano Pinto had a car accident and stayed paralysed forever. He was not able to perform required physical actions but he could imagine it. So the first ball was hit with a power of mind.
This incredible event was possible due to the program Walk Again Project (WAP). 156 scientists from around the world participating in this project are working on the technology with assistance of that paralysed people could walk independently.
Movement of objects with a power of mind is a still revolutionary idea. But you can only imagine how crazy is sounded in 1970s. But it was exactly the time the first drafts of neural computer interface were made at the University of California. In the middle of 1990s the first serie of experiments on implantation into human body electronic devices with special abilities: they were able to transmit signals between human body and the cerebral cortex restoring the lost ability to move, to hear and to see.
The results were impressive, but the goal of researches was bigger. The idea was to get the ability to manage all electronic devices with a power of mind. And the Brazil para-athlete Juliano Pinto has proven it really works.
It works — news media reports
- Elon Musk headed the company developing neural interfaces called Neuralink. The billionaire has promised to issue first device able to connect human brain with a computer within next 4 years.
- The system developed by an international group of scientists will help people with a syndrome of a locked up man. The patients have been prevented from the opportunity to move for years now can give positive and negative answers.
- A device allowing to manage a robot with a power of mind is developed in USA. Brain interface will prevent all possible technical mistakes.
- Facebook is working on creation of a non-invasive neural interface allowing users to type texts without a keyboard.
- US scientists created an encephalophone, a musical instrument managed by the power of mind.
- At the University of Alabama hold tests on a device reding passwords from the minds of the experiment participants.
Thoughts reading, machine management with a power of mind, movement of objects on the distance – all these dreams can come true with neural interface.
What is a neural interface?
The idea of a neural interface is not new. Science fiction authors described this technology so often, that when it showed up we all were ready and knew how everything should work. You make your brain work, direct your thought and the light goes on. Then you manage your coffee machine, call for a taxi and so on with power of your mind. But it is in science fiction books. Let’s dispense how it works from the scientific point of view.
Neural interface is an electronic device transmitting data between human brain and an external device, for instance a computer, exoskeleton, household appliances or a wheelchair.
Neural interfaces can be internal and external same as modems. So it could be something like a helmet with sensors fixing brain electrical activity. In this case we are talking about an external non-invasive neural interface. This type of device is dedicated for machine management and solving medical, military, production solutions, as well as for entertainment.
Internal or invasive devices are electrodes implanted into human brain or attached to its surface. Certainly this second type of devices requires a difficult and serious job and it is not that easy to make up your mind to its implementation. But it solves more sophisticated problems: for instance, brain, bodily and sense organs functions restoration. And it is completely natural that the medicine is the major area of implementation of such devices.
The electrical signals on the surface of animal brain were fixed initially by the english physiologist Richard Caton in 1875. His german colleague Hans Berger held a series of experiments and published the results obtained – EEG. In the 1950s a neurosurgeon Jose Delgado has implemented the first interface affecting the brain with radio frequencies.
It was clear, the brain manages the function of all sensory organs and the entire body through complicated electrical impulses. That means it is theoretically possible to manage these functions through another electrical impulses sent not by brain but by an external device. In 1972 showed up the first neural prostheses – an implant fighting deafness. 25 thousands people got a chance to hear with this device.
Philipp Kennedy from Amory University of Atlanta has dedicated his life to development of invasive neural interfaces he was testing on animals. After animal test were forbidden he decided it is better to die than to stop working. He persuaded his colleague surgeon and with his assistance implanted electrodes to himself and therefore became the first man affected by neural interfaces. Later completely paralyzed people and people with the syndrome of “locked up man”became his patients and the neural interface became a profitable medicine field.
Despite the already mentioned neural prostheses for the deaf today exist and are implemented retinal neural prostheses, microchips – pain blockers, devices restoring mobility of paralyzed limbs, help epilepsy, sclerosis, neurosis and nervous tic patients. And the existence of a fully capable virtual avatar of a completely paralyzed man is actually a reality.
Anyway the technology of neural interface is firmly established in medicine and in human plans for the near future. But it is not totally clear yet, how they will be. Because a massive implementation of neural interfaces is not only a matter of our future and but also a defence secrecy.
Of course no one will reveal secret military equipment developments of the middle of the 21 century. But we already know today what was a secret yesterday.
China. Military academy cadets are trained to work with devices transforming brain impulses into commands for military equipment.
Last year the Scientific technical defense university of China presented robots managed through neural interface.
Russia. Bio interfaces of several types are developed in order to provide wounded on battlefield with medical care. A virtual reality helmet called Swarog intended to manage drones is developed and will be put on inventory soon.
In the future it is planned to use technology for a remote control of the whole military aviation and armour.
USA. The work of a device is being tested which will control military fighter planes with brain signals.
An invasive neural interface transmits brain impulses of the “pilot” to the control desk of the military fighter plane F-35. Neural technologies are developed by the american agency DARPA.
Defense secrecy frequently help the birth and development of new technologies. The internet was created by Pentagon order. We hope it will be the case this time also and the neural interfaces for military equipment management will be useful not only on the battlefield but also let’s say on the playing field.
Human demand on new entertainment types is a persistent global phenomenon. And the producers try to feed us by making new games based on new technologies and neural interfaces are not an exclusion. Here are several examples.
In the swedish board games called Mindball from the company Interactive Productline two players are competing with each other by pushing a ball with electrical impulses of their own brains.
The neural headset MindWave, the project of a producer from California NeuroSky fixes four frequencies of user’s brain as well as blinking with assistance of one electrode. The developers hope that by monitoring the reactions of our brain and body in a game we will learn to manage these processes in a real life.
Emotiv EPOC device from Emotiv Systems is more similar to a scientific device than to a toy. There are 14 electrodes involved. After downloading a software and putting on a device a user can perform tasks and train different skills: from rolling a dice to a telepathic interaction with game characters.
Puzzlebox Orbit controller with MindWave neural headset is just a toy of dreams for 2-92 year old boys. Who will resist to launch a helicopter with the power of own brain instead of buttons of the remote control.
True, there is a tiny catch. As a rule, the manufactures of gaming interfaces promise that exactly the electrical impulses make balls roll, dices roll over and air jets fly. But we should not forget that facial muscle contracts produce stronger electric field than a brain. And if you are wincing by trying to push a ball with the power of your brain, maybe the ball is pushed exactly with your wincing and not with your thoughts. So as we see it’s more complicated with neural interfaces.
It’s a lot more complicated
Yes, the future is near, but it is too early to dive into matrix. There are a lot of problems connected with production and usage of interfaces and we have to solve them before we make a choice between the red and the blue pill. It is doubtful the solutions will be found soon, because the scale of the task is too big!
There are only one-directional neural interfaces now. All today existing or developing technologies can only beam brain impulses or receive them from outside. There is a long time till bidirectional devices will come which will be able to do both.
External interfaces are not enough precise and are not expected to gain a high sensibility in the future.
The usage of invasive neural interfaces is still linked to a high risk. Electrodes not always survive, inevitably damage neural tissues and lead to cellular failure.
In the world where energy supply remains the major issue it is too difficult to provide neural interfaces with energy required that’s why a mass production is far from assured.
But anyway the neurotechnologies existing now are demonstrating that there is a new reality waiting for us.
It is obvious that despite all unsolved issues neurological interfaces are in forefront of the technologies of tomorrow. And the problems will be solved one day. Try to imagine changes waiting for us with the technology allowing not only to move objects with the mind. Potentially it is able to read thoughts, make videos of sleeps, store memories on external storage media.
That will be a totally different world. All that is worrying us today will look totally different: comfort, mutual understanding, success, carriere, job, health, life, joy. And the future is being built right now while we are launching the helicopter.