Sending your thoughts directly into someone else’s brain may seem like the stuff of science fiction. But this capability could be closer to reality than we think.
A team from the University of Washington and Carnegie Mellon University has developed a system, called BrainNet, which allows three people to communicate with one another using only their thoughts.
Previous research has demonstrated that two people can communicate via brainwaves to play a video game using what’s known as a brain-brain interface—technology that can both extract and deliver information to and from brains. In the latest study, the team took this idea, and added an extra person. Their system is described in a paper published on the pre-print server arXiv.
“In 2013, we demonstrated the first brain-to-brain interface for direct communication and collaboration between two human brains,” Rajesh Rao, an author of the study from the University of Washington, told Newsweek. “The question that remained unanswered was whether one could create a ‘social network’ of more than two brains collaborating to solve task that none of the individual brains could. BrainNet is the first proof-of-concept demonstration of this idea.”
In the experiments, two participants (the senders) were fitted with electrodes on the scalp to detect and record their own brainwaves—patterns of electrical activity in the brain—using a method known as electroencephalography, or EEG. The third participant (the receiver) was fitted with electrodes that enabled the participant to receive and read brain waves from the two senders via a technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS.
The trio was asked to collaborate using brain-to-brain interactions to solve a task that each of them individually would not be able to complete. The task involved a simplified Tetris-style game in which the players had to decide whether or not to rotate a shape by 180 degrees in order to correctly fill a gap in a line at the bottom of the computer screen. Read more