Japanese technology unveiled on Wednesday may allow people to move things with their mind instead of their body according to the Associated Press. The new technology works by reading brain activity and translating it into a set of commands.
Hitachi Inc. developed the technology, which they call a “brain-machine interface”. The device actually uses small differences in the flow of blood within the brain. Then it translates that motion into electrical signals.
The cap that creates the signals uses optical fibers to connect to a device that records the signals. The device receiving signals attached to a train in the demonstration. The train was powered by a motor, but received signals from the brain.
The brain machine interface is powered by a new technology called optical topography. A small beam of infrared light is used to register the changes in blood flow within the brain.
The demonstration took place at Hitachi’s Advanced Research Laboratory in Hatoyama, near Tokyo as reported by the Associated Press. Kei Utsugi, the researcher that demonstrated the device. He also had a reporter try on the helmet. By doing simply math, the reporter powered the train, causing it to move around the tracks.
The math problems that the reporter solved stimulated the frontal cortex of the brain, the part of the brain associated with problem solving. Other activities that stimulate the frontal cortex such as singing can also power the train. However, when the activity to the frontal cortex stops, so does the train.
Although the obvious application of the technology is in the medical field, where it could help quadriplegics and other disabled individuals, Hitachi is interested in commercial applications.
Hitachi is working to develop, for example, a remote control that would respond to your thoughts, not your thumbs to change the channel or turn the machine on or off. Other possible applications are for keyboards and other computer tasks.
For two years Hitachi has sold a device that monitors brain activity to allow paralyzed patients to answer simple questions. This device also makes use of the optical topography technology.
Japanese automaker Honda Motor Co. is also working to refine the technology for use in commercial products. Their device uses an MRI machine to collect information. The company believes that they will be able to translate this type of technology to create intelligent automobiles in the future.
There have been other inventions that use this technology, but the advantage is the Hitachi model does not require contact with the actual brain. Neural Signals, which created a similar device, requires a chip to be implanted in the brain.
Tabuchi, Hiroko, ” Hitachi: Move the train with your brain.” Associated Press. URL: (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070622/ap_on_hi_te/japan_brain_remote;_ylt=AuO0jpmGZq7g5aJ7uS.7Bhis0NUE)
Beschizza, Rob, “Hitachi: Commercial Mind-Machine Interface by 2011.” Wired. URL: