Mind control is an unsettling thing, generally reserved for horror films or sci-fi flicks. Thing is, University of Washington researchers may have taken the first step towards making that a terrifying reality. The good news is that for right now, their research represents a major technological breakthrough.
In the experiment, University of Washington professor Rajesh Rao was able to “control” the hand of his co-worker, Andrea Stocco, through electrical stimulation sent via the Internet. “The Internet was a way to connect computers, and now it can be a way to connect brains,” Stocco said in a press release. “We want to take the knowledge of a brain and transmit it directly from brain to brain.”
Rao wore a cap outfitted with electrodes that read electrical activity in the brain, while Stocco (on the opposite side of campus) wore a swim cap with a coil placed on his left motor cortex, the part of the brain that controls hand movement. Rao imagined himself playing a video game where he clicked his right finger to fire a cannon. Across campus, Stocco moved his hand in what he described as something that felt like an involuntary tic. It caused him to click the space bar on his computer, which would’ve fired the video game cannon. “It was both exciting and eerie to watch an imagined action from my brain get translated into actual action by another brain,” Rao said in a press release.
The researchers believe that the technology could be used for good once it has become sufficiently advanced. For example, someone on the ground could guide a flight attend through a landing if the pilot becomes incapacitated.