97: Mario Reads Minds

"The science may be complex, but the interaction is simple: 'You think about pushing the object, and the device allows detection for that event, and then you're able to perform that action [in game].' Currently, they're up to being able to detect three distinct actions simultaneously, which he says is "just the beginning. It's not clear where the limits are ...'"

Shannon Drake speaks to Emotive's Randy Breen, the man who reads minds.

Mario Reads Minds

I might be nitpicking a little, but I think it's misleading to plaster this article with images of Mario and even include him in the title when the article has nothing to do with Nintendo. Equating Mario to games in general reminds me of how my friend's parents used to refer to every game console as a "Nintendo" back in junior high.

meathelix:
I might be nitpicking a little

Yes, you are!

meathelix:
I might be nitpicking a little, but I think it's misleading to plaster this article with images of Mario and even include him in the title when the article has nothing to do with Nintendo. Equating Mario to games in general reminds me of how my friend's parents used to refer to every game console as a "Nintendo" back in junior high.

Agreed. For the whole time, I was waiting for the extra bit that would tie this whole hightech infused article to the iconic plumber and his moustache, but besides a vague reference to gimmicks, trends and the wiimote, there was absolutely nothing to find.
Would have the lack of Mario made the article less friendly? Colder?... Frightening?
People don't like when we might even suggest the idea of fiddling with their body?
Is it a taboo? Is it wrong to associate such a technology with games, so you have to put a friendly face on it?



On another point, this will become very interesting in the years to come, with headsets becoming even more perfected, and eventually able to include VR visors. Mixing this to movement and inclination sensors incorporated to devices fitting the palm of the hand, or on the hand, I really think that the time of the power glove - often cited for amusement - will become real a day or another. I think you just can't escape that part of science fiction.

More closely related, it will be a dream to be able to exploit emotions to have the AI, the music and/or the world react to them.

As being extremely convinced that hassleless controls will play a more and more important role in the video game industry in the years to come, offering gamers the ability to control universes and avatars with more precision and implication, through devices transporting people to fantastic worlds, I find it formidable how you may control a machine with brain waves so easily.

What's quite freaky, is that it seems to be a double edged sword. On the other end, this process could "easily" be reversed, to disrupt and send certain waves into the brain, and have the human be puppetized to some degree, considering how our skull does a poor job at insulating our brain once that headset is stuck on one's scalp.
There are quite many creepy potential applications of this EEG technology and future variants, some of them not far from the cold nightmares pictured in Animatrix or Minority Report, respectively mechanical devices altering our minds and emotions, or the use of stasis headbands for prisoners.

On the happy side of things (yes, just forget the stuff above, be nice with your neighbour and you probably won't have to be concerned about this), sitting in a sofa and controlling everything through minimal efforts, will probably become a profitable branch of its own in the future. Maybe first for a niche, solo games and arcades.
As such, I still keep an interested eye on Emotiv's and Neurosky's works, although I can't shrug off the negative vibes sent down my spine everytime I'm thinking about the complete range of applications of those tools.
Fortunately, they still have numerous noble uses to them, related to medecine, on improving the lives of people, so it's not all too dark.

Yet.

Controlling the Human Mind : The Technologies of Political Control or Tools for Peak Performance would also be a well composed source of information to explore and analyse all aspects of this debate, regarding the repercussions of this outburst in science.

Arbre:
What's quite freaky, is that it seems to be a double edged sword. On the other end, this process could "easily" be reversed, to disrupt and send certain waves into the brain, and have the human be puppetized to some degree ...

ORLY? I think there's a wide gulf between sensing the quickening of the pulse, the moistening of the skin and the tightening of various muscles and mind control.

ORLY? I think there's a wide gulf between sensing the quickening of the pulse, the moistening of the skin and the tightening of various muscles and mind control.

Yes there is, but you're also omitting the systems which do more than what you describe above, like Emotiv's Cognitiv suit for example, mentionned in the article, and in fact, those various EEG headsets. They read brainwaves and recognize patterns. We're not that far from Delgado's more body-intrusive stimoceivers. There's much more to read on that, which actually leads to even more interesting knowledge and controversial subjects, but let's just limit ourselves to that for the moment. :)

Arbre:

ORLY? I think there's a wide gulf between sensing the quickening of the pulse, the moistening of the skin and the tightening of various muscles and mind control.

Yes there is, but you're also omitting the systems which do more than what you describe above, like Emotiv's Cognitiv suit for example, mentionned in the article, and in fact, those various EEG headsets. They read brainwaves and recognize patterns. We're not that far from Delgado's more body-intrusive stimoceivers. There's much more to read on that, which actually leads to even more interesting knowledge and controversial subjects, but let's just limit ourselves to that for the moment. :)

Got to agree that things might get a little scary down the road, but I'm not sure that EEG is a process by which mind control can be achieved. Brain waves are more of a by-product of cognitive functioning. In other words, brain waves are not the cause of thought, but rather a way that we can measure and record where and how intensely the brain is firing. Electro-chemical impulses fire neurons which, in a large quantities, give off enough energy to stimulate external measuring devices in the form of 'waves'.

Off course EEG has been used to treat behavior (such as with electroshock treatment for epileptics); but the methods resemble more of a "use a sledgehammer to put tack in the wall" instead of a more precise process of neural conditioning.

The person that is speaking for the company is exactly right in claiming that it is not intended to remove the gamepad, but instead supplement it. EEG, as great as it is as a non-invasive, fairly portable way of recording brain functioning, is not the most precise method for reading brain activity (reading brain activity and placing the findings into a definite intention is difficult enough through any means of measurement). Coupling this technology with heart rate and the like is a good idea, but I'm not entirely convinced the product won't sink as soon as it hits the water. Could be wrong, but there are so many ways that this thing can fail to catch on.

I agree with Blaxton that this is a product facing a long uphill battle with consumer and developer acceptance, but also, when we're talking about reading even brain waves, intercepting a signal is a far cry from generating the same. At least that's my educated layman's take on it. I'd love to be proven wrong though. I'd love even more to be proven wrong by someone willing to sell me such a device.

Arbre:
What's quite freaky, is that it seems to be a double edged sword. On the other end, this process could "easily" be reversed, to disrupt and send certain waves into the brain, and have the human be puppetized to some degree, considering how our skull does a poor job at insulating our brain once that headset is stuck on one's scalp.
There are quite many creepy potential applications of this EEG technology and future variants, some of them not far from the cold nightmares pictured in Animatrix or Minority Report, respectively mechanical devices altering our minds and emotions, or the use of stasis headbands for prisoners.

Brain waves are a product of neural activation. As action potentials are released in series, they generate waves of subtle electrical activity. This is what EEGs are picking up. You can no more give people thoughts and experiences by pressing "PLAY" on an EEG than you can make your car move by making engine noises. "Vroom vroom!"

Delgado's experiments to which you refer are from the late 60's and early 70's. We've come a long way and have discovered that the brain is much more complex at the neural level. No one (including himself) considers those methods a serious means of mind control any more. I won't dismiss the possibility of projecting sensations into brains at some point in the (unforseeable) future, but to use words like "easy" or "EEG" while talking about that is just plain inaccurate.

BTW: Earthpulse is in the tin foil hat business.

...intercepting a signal is a far cry from generating the same.

Yes, but point is, they're not just intercepting a signal. They're reading an electrical signal. Which is not ought to be that exceptionnally eluding. Frequencies, magnitudes, lenght. That's it. If you can read it, in theory, and often demonstrated by practice, as far as simple things go at least, you can spell it as well, and even (re)write it.
If you can read the signal multiple times, and even create actions in accordance to those signals, it's likely because you know the patterns and their structure. Ergo, you have the blueprints. Thus, what works in one way can logically be made to work the other way.
Maybe that is one of the factors that makes people feel twitchy about that kind of technology.
Now, there's obviously a technological limit, these days, as to how far a - or a group of - electrode(s) only placed on the scalp, and not under the skin, nor inside the brain, can do in terms of cognitive influence on a subject.

That said, if those headsets could actually make you feel calm and happy, while you're playing or navigating, they might become addictve and popular systems, and even, on the long term, possibly induce chemical reactions akin to those provoked by drugs.
Couple this with technologies which will let you type words for you (talk or move muscles, or whatever), and in a near future, there may be tons of people who will spend days stuck in virtual psychadelic chat spaces.

As far as the first generation of game headsets go, I'm actually extremely eager to test them.

PilotPrecise:

Brain waves are a product of neural activation. As action potentials are released in series, they generate waves of subtle electrical activity. This is what EEGs are picking up. You can no more give people thoughts and experiences by pressing "PLAY" on an EEG than you can make your car move by making engine noises. "Vroom vroom!"

The car analogy went through my head as well, but, like all analogies they are for illustrating a point and not proving it, and comparing engine noise to EEG is a bit too distant to be entirely relevant. The problem with the car is that the noise is in no way related to the explosion going on within the engine, while there are currents flowing through the brain that can be interrupted by inducing a current from an outside source. Brainwaves themselves don't cause thought, but they are directly related to the energies involved in neural firing.

PilotPrecise:
BTW: Earthpulse is in the tin foil hat business.

I followed the link and went through a number of my own searches and kind of came to the same conclusion. I'm not totally sure its bunk, but I'm also not convinced that the author (Dr. Nick Begich) has the proper authority to make such statements about neuroscience. His background appears to be in general medicine and politics (though, again, I don't see any credentials in politics other than his father's accolades).

The ability for technology to interact with the brain is fairly crude at best. Giving sight to the blind is not that much better than being blind at this point, and using cybernetic hearing devices for the deaf is sometimes described as being worse than it had been before.

Arbre:

...intercepting a signal is a far cry from generating the same.

Yes, but point is, they're not just intercepting a signal. They're reading an electrical signal. Which is not ought to be that exceptionally eluding. Frequencies, magnitudes, lenght. That's it. If you can read it, in theory, and often demonstrated by practice, as far as simple things go at least, you can spell it as well, and even (re)write it.

I'm willing to concede that the ability to intercept signals is a necessary first step, technologically, toward creating and transmitting them, but I can't help but feel you're oversimplifying the matter, not to mention being a little alarmist.

EEGs and similar devices intercept the equivalent of electronic interference, displaying the resulting electrical impulses in a rather crude manner. The science of using such devices to interpret a person's thoughts or feelings is as basic as watching the squiggles on your television set to see if your neighbor is using the vacuum cleaner. You can't use the squiggles on your TV to turn your neighbors vacuum on and off anymore than you can use an EEG to make people happy or sad. That's just not how the technology works.

Will we, at some point, have machines that can not only decode human thought, but also retransmit new thoughts to the same person? I think so, yes. But we're far off from that, and a device that performs the equivalent service as an EEG, and then transmits those impulses to a game controller API is not going to allow evil genii to take over the world.

Again, I'd love to be wrong about this. A mind control device would make so many things so much simpler, but I don't see it happening.

image

Problem solved.

Or, as Joe just displayed, a LOL picture is worth a thousand sarcastic replies.

thats a sweet hat.

I often wonder what would happen if fashion flipped around. Would we be unable to tell the chic from the psychotic? I can't tell you how many times a day I think I see someone talking to himself, only to find out he has a bluetooth headset on. What if aluminum foil hats became the "in" thing to wear? Imagine that. Everyone walking around, seemingly talking to no one, wearing foil hats. Anyone with me for starting this avante-garde fashion movement? I'm going to pick up my $50 foil hat right now, undoubtedly made by Von Dutch or some such company.

It just may improve the reception on your bluetooth headset.

Blaxton:
thats a sweet hat.

I often wonder what would happen if fashion flipped around. Would we be unable to tell the chic from the psychotic? I can't tell you how many times a day I think I see someone talking to himself, only to find out he has a bluetooth headset on. What if aluminum foil hats became the "in" thing to wear? Imagine that. Everyone walking around, seemingly talking to no one, wearing foil hats. Anyone with me for starting this avante-garde fashion movement? I'm going to pick up my $50 foil hat right now, undoubtedly made by Von Dutch or some such company.

Dude, watch American Psycho sometime. The '80s were a hotbed for designers gone nuts.

I'm for this form of computer interaction. I heard about technology simlar to this about 4-6 years ago on a tv program. Can't remember what the program was though. They were originally using the headsets for paraplegics so they could interact with objects about their house. They had it at a stage where the users could turn objects in their house on and off.
However, I think we are more than a few decades from reaching the level were they can tamper with our minds with matrix style plugs, let alone tamper with it externally.

Also, I agree with meathelix about linking this article to Mario. I feel it isn't relevant. You never mention Nintendo at all during the article (though you do mention Microsoft) and the 'Expressiv' technology seems to be marketed towards online game play.

Brain waves are a product of neural activation. As action potentials are released in series, they generate waves of subtle electrical activity. This is what EEGs are picking up. You can no more give people thoughts and experiences by pressing "PLAY" on an EEG than you can make your car move by making engine noises. "Vroom vroom!"

I don't know how I could disagree with that, as I don't recall mentionning "thoughts and experiences" (as memories), kind of being implanted into a subject's mind as you suggest. I didn't even think of that, essentially because that was not my point.
At best, I've mentionned a degree of puppetizing. Influencing the mood of someone scores as puppetizing in my book, and can also be considered a form of control, from the moment you actually manage to influence the mind to some extent, you're just pulling a puppet string, even if it's just a minor one. As you supported yourself, tests made decades ago, with rather primitive tools, already proved it could be possible to alter the state of a person with something as raw as two electrodes and some weak electrical currents. Again, to some degree. We agree on that.
There are opinions on the form the technologies adressed above could grow into.
There are huge skeptics, and some who are enthusiastic, maybe a bit too much. I'm in the second group.
"Mind Control" is just a term that sells, if you allow me the expression, just like the title of the article says "Mario reads minds". I was particularily curious about the necessity to associate Mario to the real meat and potatoes of the article, which somehow illustrated how people might be unconsciously unsecure about those technologies, and need a "friendly face" to be associated to them. To me, the association is just as creepy as clowns are.

Besides the book's name, I've been cautious not citing the term "mind control" myself. But we're in the first steps, and it's not without a reason that I'm talking about what could be done in the future. There's a fair part of belief, true, and I know that this is anti-scientific, as all has to be based on observations, facts and empirical study, but history has also largely proved that many things scientists considered firmly impossible yesterday, have become realities now, and I hardly doubt that all scientists don't have part of dream that feeds them. What you consider an unforeseenable future, I say it could come sooner than expected.
So between ramblings worth of a SF average seller, and the traditionnal blasť attitude certain scientist groups display, I believe there's a middle ground that is nice to explore.
Yes, the brain is complex, there is no point denying that, and I think it's been sufficiently hammered for the past decades. I'm sorry if my words make it sound as if I was claimnig that studies stopped after 1970, but somehow, I don't think that even you really believed that I was making those sorts of claims. Or am I wrong?

But as for what's "easy" (and again, please notice the ""), you're putting the word out of context. I encourage you to reread the paragraph in question. It was regarding what's already done today, with the proposed headsets (which will probably be looked upon as outdated in a couple of years later). That is, how they can "control" a machine with those devices to a certain extent, minor at the moment, with an amount of actions derived from the reading of those brainwaves. Now, there are various degrees of control on a machine at the moment, but I don't recall talking about making robots walk or whatever else similar to that, or even approaching that. The subject of the paragraph, which you picked the word easy from, was about forms of interaction in video games, and that, taking their word, is easily done. They're about to sell devices to prove it. Above all, it's only the beginning. When I provided examples from the mainstream entertainment that would ring a bell to most people (Animatrix, Minority Report), it was in conjunction with the words "future variants". There might be a leap of logic to be found here, but my very belief (which is a funny thing to say when it comes to science) is that in several decades, maybe many, maybe in more than a century, we'll reach a level of technology (if everything goes right... or wrong) that will lead to the creation of devices moderately capable of similar feats. I mean, science has provided many tools which have been used in such wrong ways. Why would those devices be free of such a travesty?
A slight correction however: In the Animatrix, IIRC, the robots did plant electrodes in the studied specimens' brains to trigger emotions.

Continued
|
v

I'm sorry if my words confused you. I can understand that citing what's his name's book can also lead to the belief that I'm waving the (absurd) conspiracy flag around. Which is not my goal. I simply have a soft spot for speculation on (far) future tech, and I do get enthusiastic about it.
As for the book itself, I'm not saying that everything's good inside. Nor did I say that the book would only and/or essentially provide facts.
See, I can buy a Bible, read it for intellectual curiosity, to understand both opposed views on a rather old debate. That doesn't mean I do not carry a big grain of salt in my pocket.
It would be a hasty and flawed conclusion to believe I don't.

BTW: Earthpulse is in the tin foil hat business.

Aaww come on... are you saying that Magneto's helmet is pointless?? :)

More seriously, I don't know how to reply to that. Obviously, regardless of the level of accuracy of your comment, making accusations, and particularily indirectly mocking a group of persons and their works in a way or another should, at the very least, be followed by some form of evidence. I'm not trying to defend Begich, his institute, his pals or whatelse. I just cited his book as an interesting reading as far as I'm concerned. I'm not saying you're wrong either, but I'd like to see some evidence, at least, that his claims are so flawed that they deserve to be automatically followed by tin-foil-hat related mockery.

Let's take an example. Earthpulse is selling those Cell/Wave Guard filtering ceramic casings. And you know why? Coz da phon'z eatin y0r brAinz man!11!!1! Yeah, no kiddin'1!!
Kind of "tin foil hat" business mentionned earlier on. However, on the same note, there are various reports and studies supported by the National Radiological Protection Board and the Health Protection Agency, notably the report Mobile Phones and Health 2004, actually informing heavy users of mobile phones about health concerns (1).
For example:
"One ten-year study in Sweden suggests that heavy mobile users are prone to non-malignant tumours in the ear and brain while a Dutch study had suggested changes in cognitive function. A German study has hinted at an increase in cancer around base stations, while a project supported by the EU had shown evidence of cell damage from fields typical of those of mobile phones."
And then, Earthpulse claims they sell a protective casing that can significantly cut a large amount of those radiations by 61%. The most funny part in that is that after searching for quite some time for an article debunking that Cell/Wave Guard product, it's actually hard to fine even one page. Actually, I've found absolutely none. Not even a blog held by a scientist willing to prove just how much crap this product is.
So where are we, really?
Maybe Earthpulse capitalizes on the ignorance of people through impressive technobabble, and fear. Maybe they're right, maybe it's fifty fifty. Maybe it's just as worthy as rubbish stories about cooking eggs with cellphones!
But at least, there's some info to look at, at least to gauge their claims, and in the end, they don't seem that far fetched, regarding the cell phones at least. Unless I missed something *big*, of course.
I'm just using the information we're given. At this point, I'm on equal terms as with anyone else.
So basically, if all of Earthpulse's stuff isn't just a bunch of BS, just as this ceramic casing is supposed to be, then needless to say that certain accusations may be uncalled for, and hasty.
Now, as I said earlier on, you just have to read into this with a grain of salt anyway.

Now, that was a lot of talk.

 

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