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Want light? Just think about it

Technology from a Canadian company enables people to control objects using only their brain waves. Visitors to the upcoming Winter Olympics will be able to give it a try.

Visitors to the Ontario House at the upcoming Winter Games in Vancouver will be able to use brain waves to control a light display at one of three landmarks: Toronto's CN Tower, Ottawa's Parliament building, and Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Falls. Interaxon

Ever wish you could move objects using only your thoughts?

That vision is becoming closer to reality. Toronto-based Interaxon has created technology that lets users control a series of lights using only their minds.

At this month's Winter Olympics in Vancouver, visitors to the Ontario House will be able to try out the technology, using their brain waves to control lights at either Toronto's CN Tower, Niagara Falls, or Ottawa's Parliament building.

Users wear a headset that measures the brain's alpha waves--associated with relaxation--and beta waves, associated with concentration. By focusing or relaxing, a signal is sent to a computer, which then associates a change in the lights with that thought and transmits it over the Internet to one of the three light shows.

Each of the three light shows is different. In Ottawa for example, the light show covers the Parliament building with glowing snowflakes.

"When they get to 100 percent concentration the lights on the roof come on," Interaxon Chief Operating Officer Trevor Coleman said in an e-mail interview. "It looks really amazing."

For Niagara, users will get 15 seconds to use their brainwaves to chose the color for each of seven lights that illuminate Horseshoe Falls.

Finally, Olympics goers will be able to control the intensity of lights that travel up and down Toronto's CN Tower as well as the speed of the "radome" that spins under the observation deck.

"As people concentrate the radome will spin faster and the lights on the elevator shaft and antenna will become brighter and more intense," Coleman said. "As they relax the lights will spin slower and be less intense."

Now if only Olympics organizers could use their thoughts to make it snow more at Cypress Mountain.

Interaxon is just one of many working on thought-controlled technology. Honda, for example, has a robot that can be controlled using brain waves. At last month's Consumer Electronics Show, Mattel introduced a new Mindflex game that enables a person to control the height of a floating ball using their mind. The technology also holds promise for letting amputees have easier control over artificial limbs.

For more on how Interaxon's technology works, the company has an explanatory page on its Web site. Or check out their video, embedded below. I plan to try the technology out firsthand later this month when Beyond Binary heads to Vancouver to cover the technology of the Winter Games.