And how it’s going to change our lives
Picture this: touching the tips of your index finger and thumb together to unlock your car. No keys, nothing more than your fingers. Or playing an “air guitar” and hearing playback on your stereo.
Well, it’s not just science fiction anymore. Muscle-based controlling exists and it might be commonplace before you can snap your fingers (which could open your garage door).
The technology behind muscle-based controlling is called Electromyography, or EMG. Electrodes are placed on the body to track muscle movements, which are then assigned to specific actions or commands. The commands are remotely sent to any device to provide “hands-free” control.
Want to see it in action? Check this out:
My theory: clothing of the future will have these types of electrodes built in. Imagine wearing pants that track your muscle movements and can help you train for sports; or sweaters that sync to your stereo or video game console; or gloves that control your car. The possibilities are endless.
Take muscle-based controlling one step further and we’re confronted with something similar to Avatar — that is, controlling devices using only the most powerful muscle of all: the brain. Psychokinesis (also called telekinesis) and telepathy (sharing thoughts between individuals) already exist today. As Ann Hammock of CNN notes, “Researchers are already using brain-computer interfaces to aid the disabled, treat diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and provide therapy for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Work is under way on devices that may eventually let you communicate with friends telepathically, give you superhuman hearing and vision or even let you download data directly into your brain, a la ‘The Matrix.'”
In much the same way as discussed before, electrodes are attached in order to engage with the brain. This is done in one of two ways: non-invasively by electrodes on the scalp, or invasively by electrodes directly attached to the brain (that is, inside the skull).
Picking up on microvolt signals sent by specific areas of the brain, the electrodes send specific commands to assigned devices — allowing them to be controlled by nothing more than thought. Think of this in terms of an amputee with a prosthetic arm: he can “think” about moving his arm and the prosthetic, which communicates with the electrodes in his brain, moves accordingly.
Perhaps even more interesting than telekinetic control is the development of telepathic control and communication. Telepathic communication would require that two individuals be linked by implanted electrodes in their brain that are specialized to allow for intercommunication of thoughts.
DARPA, the Pentagon’s technology research division, is currently working on an initiative called “Silent Talk,” which would let soldiers on secret missions communicate with their thoughts alone. Sort of a scary thought.
Less sinister is the application of basic telepathy in video games like Mindflex and the Star Wars Force Trainer, which use headsets made by Neurosky with simple electrodes to monitor levels of concentration and relaxation. The signals trigger a fan that can move a ball up or down, depending on how hard you’re thinking. And if you want to be Carrie, now you can: NeuroBoy lets you set targets on fire just by concentrating on them.
If the mind really is the last frontier, then it seems that pretty soon we might just need to find a new one.
What do you think? What other applications or predictions do you have about this technology?