How many times we wished to be able to contact someone without words… New company for scientific and military research plans to make the dream come true by giving us a possibility to send text or audio messages by thought. The technology of so-called synthetic telepathy is based on analyzing electrical activity of the brain using EEG. Similar technology is already commercially available and used in video games.
“I believe that eventually this technology will become a new way of communicating. It will take too much work and time, but many commercial applications will be created,” says the project manager Mike D’Zmura.
The main goal is to compose a message using, as D’Zmura calls it, “the little voice in our head”. The next step is to send this message to a particular person or object by thought. Once the message reaches the receiver, it can manifest as a text or voice message.
Although the funding comes from the army, and originally it is intended for military use, D’Zmura believes that thought-based communication will revolutionize our daily life.
One of the first areas of application of the communication by thought is the gaming world, says Paul Sajda of Columbia University. Commercially available devices are electroencephalographs and allow users to manage virtual objects by thought. One of the most important problems in the composition of messages is the way the electroencephalograph works, which is not very specific.
Mechanisms are able to detect a signal within 1 to 2 inches. Placing electrodes between the skull and the brain could provide more accurate results, but is expensive and requires invasive surgery. To solve this problem, scientists will need to gain a better understanding of the words and phrases that activate specific brain regions.
Finally, the method of Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging detects brain activity more accurately, but it is heavy and expensive machinery. Thus, the EEG is the most economical, lightweight and quick mechanism for creating a commercially available device.
The technology of brain mapping will help computers find which word or phrase a person is thinking about, when a particular part of the brain shows to be activated in the EEG. The mapping of brain responses of the English language is a huge issue and D’Zmura says it will take at least 15-20 years before the thought-based communication becomes a reality.
As Sajda said, “there are technical obstacles that must be overcome, but as we know, 20 years ago people could never imagine that it would be possible to communicate through Internet”.