Thursday, April 23, 2009

"Civilization without Instrumentalities!"

Over the past year, I've seen a number of things that have amazed me -- the Treasury Department buying stakes in private corporations, the president pressuring the CEO of a car company to resign, Congress authorizing $700+ billion in spending to bail out companies nearing insolvency, etc.

Today I saw something that is amazing in a good way.

According to the Washington Post (may require registration), two toy companies -- Mattel and Uncle Milton -- are preparing to release in the fall games that use brain waves to move objects. Yes, just like a science-fiction story:

You slip the wireless headset on. It looks like something a telemarketer would wear, except the earpieces are actually sensors, and what looks like a microphone is a brain wave detector. You place its tip against your forehead, above your left eyebrow.

A few feet away is a ping-pong ball in a clear tube called the Force Trainer. The idea is to use your thoughts alone, as recognized by the wand on your forehead, to lift the ball. Your brain's electrical activity is translated into a signal understood by a little computer that controls a fan that blows the ball up the tube. Levitates it. As if by magic. It's mind over matter.

All you have to do is concentrate.

The Post website also has a video in which different Post personnel successfully use the device. I have to admit, I found it thrilling. I'm planning to buy one.

I can imagine games being devised in which multiple players try to gain control of a ball or something similar, with the "strongest" brain winning. I could also imagine the technology being developed into silent communication devices. And into devices to test intelligence or to test certain types of mental aptitudes (attention to detail, flexibility, etc.). Very, very exciting.

Hat tip to Hit & Run.

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