A ‘mind-reading’ device that can decipher words from brainwaves without them being spoken has been developed by Japanese scientists, raising the prospect of ‘telepathic’ communication.
Researchers have found the electrical activity in the brain is the same when words are spoken and when they are left unsaid.
By looking for the distinct wave forms produced before speaking, the team was able to identify words such as ‘goo’, ‘scissors’ and ‘par’ when spoken in Japanese.
The scientists behind the technology said they can identify brain waves associated with syllables or letters of the Japanese alphabet, meaning it may be possible to decode entire words and sentences without the need for any of them being physically spoken.
To ‘listen’ to the unspoken words, the researchers used a method called electroencephalogram, or EEG.
This technology records electrical activity from the brain using an array of electrodes on the scalp to detect the brain waves.
The team focused on a part of the brain known as Broca’s area, which is thought to be involved in language processing and speech.
Lead author Professor Yamazaki Toshimasa, an expert in brain computer interfaces at Kyushu Institute of Technology in Japan’s Fukuoka Prefecture, and his team asked 12 men, women and children to recite a series of words, measuring their brainwaves as they did so.
They found each syllable produced a distinct brain wave activity from the initial thought to the actual utterance. Activity could be seen up to two seconds before a word was spoken.
Rise of the Brain Controlled Machines (Sidebar to Story)
Forget joysticks and exoskeletons, the future of warfare could see robot armies controlled using just a commander’s mind.
China has been training students at a military academy to use headsets that detect and interpret the brain activity of the wearer, allowing them to control the machines.
At a demonstration in Zhengzhou, students used the device to send robots trundling in different directions.
They were also able to turn the robot’s heads and get them to pick up objects.
The technology uses a brain computer interface known as a electroencephalograph, which uses electrodes in a cap to detect tiny changes in the electrical activity of the brain.
By training a computer to recognise particular patterns that accompany commands, such as turn left or turn right, this can be then transmitted to control the robot.
The technology is being developed at the military academy’s laboratory for brain-machine coordination.