To some, it might be a newfangled concept but did you know that as far back as 1974, computer engineers had already been toying with the idea of using ones thoughts to run a computer?
By: Ringo Bones
Our recent exposure of the concept is probably a documentary showing a US Air Force experiment on a pilot using his thoughts to fly a plane – actually it was an F-22 Raptor flight simulator – with a surprising degree of success. But did you know that as far back as 1974, computer engineers had already been toying with the idea of using one’s thoughts to run a computer? Just imagine the possibilities if you can buy an “affordable” interface that will allow one to run your personal computer or smart-phone by just using your thoughts. Would an affordable and portable thought run computer with a “non-obtrusive neural interface” be the next information technology revolution?
Back in 1974, a computer was hooked to the human brain by Lawrence Pinneo of Stanford Research Institute, who programmed it to take orders from the subject’s thoughts. Pinneo started with 25 subjects, each fitted with an electrode-studded helmet. The electrodes were connected to an electroencephalograph – a machine that measures brain waves.
The subjects were asked to think but not to articulate seven different commands: up, down, left, right, slow, fast and stop. The brain-wave patterns from these commands were then fed into a computer that had been programmed to recognize the patterns. If the computer detected the brain-wave pattern for “down” for example it would move a spot of light or cursor towards the bottom of the television screen. If it discerned the pattern for “slow” it would slow the motion of the dot. Each subject, thinking at random of any of the seven commands, was capable of moving the computer-directed dot of light around the TV screen – literally at will – making it respond correctly about 60 percent of the time.
Pinneo is convinced that the accuracy of the computer’s recognition of brain waves can be greatly improved. He foresees the time when the pilot of a high-speed aircraft, too occupied to scan the complex bank of instruments for a correct reading will merely have to think “rate of climb” or “compass heading” and the plane’s computer will immediately flash on a large display board in front of the pilot the correct number of feet per minute or degrees away from north.