Tapping brain power to control Thomas the Tank Engine

Think hard and flip the switch

Remember Yuri Geller? Back in the '70s, he would go on late-night talk shows and claim he could bend silverware with mind power. Ed McMahon fell for it, but not many others.

Now Hitachi has come up with a machine-brain interface that lets people do things with brainpower. The machine is essentially a big optical sensor which detects changes in blood flow in the brain. By studying the flow of blood to different sections of the brain, Hitachi believes it can divine intention. (The blog Pink Tenacle translated the report from Japanese newspapers.).

Hitachi

In experiments, subjects were able to flip the switch on a model train by reciting items from memory and performing mental arithmetic. The company believes that one day this sort of technology could be used by disabled patients.

It isn't as outlandish as the picture might make it look. A start-up in San Diego has come up with a patch that, through optical technology, can monitor the blood pressure of at-risk patients. The patch keeps tabs on the diameter of key cardiovascular pipes. Meanwhile, other researchers have tried to divine intention by looking at other types of brain activity.

But more importantly, it's one flashy hat. You could sell this thing on Harajuku, Tokyo's teen fashion capital.

About the author

    Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.

     

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