Hitachi Inc., as well as Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR) and Honda Research Institute Japan Co. (HRI) have developed a tool known as “brain-machine interface.” This device analyzes changes in the brain’s blood flow and translates brain motion into electric signals. They have developed a cap to be worn that connects by optical fibers to a mapping device which links to a toy train. When the wearer of this cap does simple calculations or sings a song to activate the frontal cortex of the brain, the train moves. When the person stops, the train stops.

The success of this toy has opened up a collection of ideas as to how this technology can be used in the future by the public. They hope to be able to develop it into a handless TV remote control, replace keyboards, help disabled people with paralysis communicate or operate wheelchairs, beds, or artificial limbs, and even be used to create new toys. In other, similar tests, to get the equipment to work required implanting a chip under the skull. Now, the sensors don’t have to physically enter the brain in order to work.

At the same time, there are still many elements that need to be tweaked. Currently, the cap and mapping machine weigh about two pounds. They hope to get this down to a lighter weight. They also want it to be more accurate by ignoring background brain activity and concentrating on the correct signals. In one experiment, a robot hand is able to mimic a user’s finger movments to play rock paper scissors. Right now, there is a seven second time difference between the user’s movement and the robot’s movement. However, the test is also at an 85% accuracy level. With these improvements, people may one day be able to exhibit telepathic abilities, just like in the movies.

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