The U.S. Army is developing a synthetic telepathy technology that acts as a computer interface controlled directly by your thoughts. They are hoping to produce a system capable of composing an email, sending a voicemail or playing a video game using thought alone.
This development in techlepathy is being conducted by researchers at the University of California, the University of Maryland as well as Carnegie Mellon University and consists of two parts. The first being the composition of a message destined for either another individual or a computer. The second part involves the transmission of the telepathic message using thought alone.
The required headset would incorporate an electroencephalograph (EEG) scanner to capture your brain’s electrical activity. This would then be interpreted into language and commands by the onboard computer using a similar process to voice recognition software. You can see a video demonstration of its use as a video game interface at Discovery Tech.
The system could also be used by people suffering from spinal injuries to increase their independence and could provide an even better solution than the unique Joystick Tongue interface that’s in development. One of the biggest obstacles is accurately tracking the brain’s signaling without placing electrodes inside the skull, like with the monkey who controlled a robotic arm with its brain.
This is an interesting development, but unfortunately, is still quite a way from becoming a reality (15-20 years). It does raise an important question though. While this kind of technology could radically improve the simplicity of computer interaction and enable new forms of communication, we need to consider whether we’re willing to place the same kinds of control on our thoughts as we apply to our speech. Would this even be possible? If it were, it might not be a big deal initially, but as the technology spreads and becomes more and more ubiquitous, we may find ourselves in a quite a privacy/self-imposed censorship quandary.