The Integration of Brain and Machine


Mind-Blowing Technology Developments

A group of researchers, led by Prof. Riccardo Poli from the the Department of Computing and Electronic Systems at the University of Essex, have created a simple interface that would allow the user to essentially steer a spaceship with their brain. The scientists found that their brain-control interface was far more effective when two people were connected to it and forced to collaborate on a task set in their simulated space environment. The experiment was conducted in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and utilized 66 electrodes that were attached to the human subject. The goal was to steer a spacecraft, as represented by a large circle on a screen, within a certain distance of the sun, which was portrayed by a white sphere.

Without getting too in-depth, the test subject had to steer the ship by concentrating on the colour of the cursor dots, which indicated direction – when thinking about colours, the brain produces waves that are stronger, making it easier for the machine to pick up. When two people were connected to the system, the trajectory of the ship was far more accurate. The researchers say that this has significant implications for other applications of joint-decision making, for example, in the military. “Brain interfaces could, in the near future, measure attention and vigilance, motivation, fatigue, cognitive load, affective state.”

Read Your Mind?

Meanwhile, technology company Neurowear has designed a set of headphones that are designed to read the user’s brainwaves in order to play songs that suit their mood. The device detects your brainwaves through a sensor placed on the forehead, analyses the brainwaves and then searches its database in order to select the appropriate tune. Of course, this technology is still in its early stages, and will have to become more sophisticated before these telepathic headphones become a hit.


A Light Bulb Moment

Ed Boyden, a scientist at MIT, was just awarded the 2013 Grete Lundbeck European Brain Research Prize, worth 1 million euros. The award was presented to Boyden for his work in optogenetics, the process of controlling brain activity through the use of light. Indeed, the chairman of the selection committee stated that optogenetics is “arguably the most important technical advance in neuroscience in the past 40 years”.

Mind Games

Computer games have been taken to a whole new level. Lat Ware, a game developer, has created a video game entitled “Throw Trucks With Your Mind”. As the name suggests, the user controls the movement of an on-screen truck via their brainwaves. A NeuroSky headset is needed, which captures the user’s brainwaves and transmits them to the computer. The game is still in the early stages of development, but has the potential to completely revolutionize the gaming industry.

The brain is an incredibly complex organ, and technology is advancing all the time. The combination of the two is utterly formidable.

References and Further Reading

Two minds are better than one – University of Essex 05 February 2013

Brain-Computer Interfaces Group – University of Essex

Steer a Spaceship with Your Brain by Alyssa Danigelis. Mar 6, 2013


Mind-meld brain power is best for steering spaceships by Paul Marks, New Scientist

Look NASA, No Hands! Astronauts Fly on Brainpower Alone by Elizabeth Palermo,

Essex University – Top Class Education in the Heart of Essex

Grace Matthews is a London-based lifestyle blogger who thinks we all need to improve communication – talk less, listen more; focus on other people; and enjoy the silences you share as much as the conversation.


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