Okay… as soon as I wrote the title above I thought: “this sounds just like something from the cover of a doomsday supermarket tabloid.” But the thing is, it’s absolutely true. Here’s a rundown of the amazing thing that has happened: Rajesh Rao, a University of Washington professor of computer science and engineering, looked at a computer screen and played a simple video game with his mind. The game required him to fire a cannon at a target, but to do so he had to imagine moving his right hand to hit the fire button. To do all this he wore a fairly amusing cap covered with blue rings that read his brainwaves. Now here’s the amazing part.
Across campus (wearing an equally amusing Speedo swim cap in bright purple) fellow researcher Andrea Stocco was wearing noise canceling headphones and a transcranial magnetic stimulation coil directly over his left motor cortex (which controls hand movement) and ready with his finger over the keyboard. At Rao’s thought-based command, Stocco involuntarily hit the spacebar, perfectly firing a shot at the target. Stocco says the feeling of being controlled was similar to that of an involuntarily nervous tic.
Let’s think for a second about how amazing this is. Stocco was cut off from the world. He wasn’t looking at the computer screen, he wasn’t thinking about moving his finger, and he wasn’t even in the same room with Rao. But just like a puppet his finger moved, perfectly firing a shot. Rao on the other hand, just needed to think about performing the action to make it happen. Think about that when you watch the simple video below and rest easy knowing that you have to wear a silly hat to be controlled: