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Science

Computer-Aided ESP Transmits Binary Numbers, Slowly 148

Posted by timothy
from the can't-be-sensory-and-extra-sensory dept.
High-C writes "Dr. Christopher James of the University of Southampton has demonstrated what is being termed 'Brain to Brain' communication. In binary, no less. In essence, one person imagined a binary number, which was picked up by an EEG and transmitted via the net to another PC. The received signal was displayed on LEDs flashing at two different frequencies. The receiver's EEG correctly deciphered the string, resulting in a 1:1 transmission of binary data via thought. The throughput isn't great so far, at .14 bits per second, but it's an incredibly geeky proof-of-concept all the same."
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Computer-Aided ESP Transmits Binary Numbers, Slowly

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  • NOT BRAIN TO BRAIN (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 10, 2009 @04:52PM (#29706009)
    There's a friggin LED in the middle.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Capt Christopher Pike used to communicate.

    • by Joce640k (829181) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @05:36PM (#29706287) Homepage

      Sombody is failing to understand the "Extra Sensory" part of "ESP", ie. you're not allowed to use any of the five senses.

      Besides ... if you have a radio link then why not just give them bluetooth headsets and let them talk to each other?

      • Besides ... if you have a radio link then why not just give them bluetooth headsets and let them talk to each other?

        Probably for the same reason the various military organisations have hand signals to indicate certain things. And to be entirely fair, sometimes I just want to say things to my wife when we are surrounded by people that I can't... because we are surrounded by people.

        • by Joce640k (829181)

          So ... get some secret hand signals together and talk to your wife with them.

          • So ... get some secret hand signals together and talk to your wife with them...

            Actually, I did that once. My wife and I play in the SCA [sca.org.au] and for a few years we sat as landed Baron and Baroness. We'd hold courts and pass out recognitions and honours and looked quite poncy with our robes and our little silver hats. It was fun.

            But it also involved speaking in public as a team, often to reasonably large audiences (sometimes several hundred or so). My wife and I sat next to each other on thrones and we always held hands (awwww!). It wasn't just affection, though. We used a series of

      • by Mr. Vage (1084371)

        Besides ... if you have a radio link then why not just give them bluetooth headsets and let them talk to each other?

        Because you won't need words when you can share thoughts.

      • by Jurily (900488)

        Sombody is failing to understand the "Extra Sensory" part of "ESP", ie. you're not allowed to use any of the five senses.

        Changing the TV with a remote control is not telekinesis, either.

    • There's a friggin LED in the middle.

      Dude, what did you use to make that post, and what did I use to make this reply? I'm just curious... I mean, it's entirely possible you're a 7 line perl script. I have no way to prove it...

    • by shentino (1139071)

      Well they at least got half of it right.

      Decoding an EEG into a 0 or a 1 on the demand of the thinker is an accomplishment by itself.

    • by kalirion (728907)

      Seriously. Wake me up when they implement affinity [wikia.com] or datavises [wikia.com].

  • Not ESP (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mangu (126918)

    ESP stands for Extra Sensorial Experience, but this rig used equipment with electrical sensors. It's as much ESP as a radio that receives electromagnetic waves and plays the result in a loudspeaker.

  • Well, this is just useless. EEG has been used as input for decades.
    • And on the output side I wouldn't call looking at an LED a mind-machine interface!
      • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        And on the output side I wouldn't call looking at an LED a mind-machine interface!

        Why not?

        • Probably for the same reason he wouldn't call looking at an LCD monitor a mind-machine interface.
          Although strictly speaking, it certainly is (the screen content is generated by the machine, and interpreted by the mind).

    • by Jeremi (14640)

      Well, this is just useless. EEG has been used as input for decades.

      Yeah, but the concept is good. Just think, maybe some day instead of having to listen to mindless cell phone yakking on the subway, people will carry on their conversations silently in their heads.

      It's going to make administering tests a lot harder though, when anyone can Google any answer without moving a muscle.

      • by ShakaUVM (157947)

        >>Yeah, but the concept is good. Just think, maybe some day instead of having to listen to mindless cell phone yakking on the subway, people will carry on their conversations silently in their heads.

        At .14 bps, people had better get able to do Huffman encoding in their heads real fast.

      • It's going to make administering tests a lot harder though, when anyone can Google any answer without moving a muscle.

        And those tests will be useless. However, I believe that people will find a way to make better tests (say, ones that actually test the ability to solve problems rather than just the ability to memorize data. Because if you can google the answer any time then there is no point in memorizing it.

      • by BitterOak (537666)

        It's going to make administering tests a lot harder though, when anyone can Google any answer without moving a muscle.

        But in a world where it is that easy to Google, does it make sense to test knowledge that can be Googled?

        • Exactly... in my opinion, the point of learning is to learn how to learn, not to learn the subject matter. Culture, yes, teach that, but beyond that, teach how to find and assimilate information. Learning by memorization is just pointless time wasting.
          • by smoker2 (750216)

            Learning by memorization is just pointless time wasting.

            So when you have a problem you've encountered before, you go back and repeat the process of discovery each and every time ? Of course not. You remember what you learned. You learn facts and memorise as much of them as you can. This saves time later and also allows you to make mental connections between the facts you have memorised, which lead to new insight. You have to memorise the basics in order to know what you don't know. Do you check your wallet

            • I am no fool, and if I am, then I stand among honorable fools like Albert Einstein. I may look something up the second or third time, but if I look it up enough times, it ends up memorized with no focused effort on my part. This has the benefit of my memorizing only those facts that I regularly have need of in my everyday life.

              Learning by rote or learning by memorization may be useful, but you can dump me into almost any situation, most any career, or in one of many different fields, and in time, I can b
        • It would test how good you are in googling the information (and in distinguishing good from bad information in the results).

      • by maxume (22995)

        Or it will just make that sort of test a great deal less relevant. Also, there are Faraday cages and jamming devices.

  • ..but from the way I understand TFA, the receiving person isn't even aware of the value of the received bit, it's only picked up subconsciously.

  • I give this 5 years before we start turning appliances on with our minds. MMM I want some coffee = BAM coffee starts being made!
    • by mysidia (191772)

      How about mental slashdot comment submission. You hear voices of other commenters in your mind, and you think what you want to say, it automatically appears in the site, and echoes in other commenters' minds.

      Just be careful not to think "first post"

      Slashdotters tend to frown on that sort of thing.

      • No thanks, then I'd be hearing crap like post #29706113, reading it is bad enough.
        • by mysidia (191772)

          Don't worry, in this future, if your post gets modded to -1 troll, you turn into a real-life troll, and your reduced size brain is no longer capable of any coherent thought, thus you can't post.

          And if you get modded down to -1 Offtopic, you spontaneously disintegrate, you cease to exist in this universe.

          Downside, is if you get +5 Funny, your clothing suddenly changes into jester clothing..

      • by causality (777677) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @05:27PM (#29706231)

        How about mental slashdot comment submission. You hear voices of other commenters in your mind, and you think what you want to say, it automatically appears in the site, and echoes in other commenters' minds.

        Just be careful not to think "first post"

        Slashdotters tend to frown on that sort of thing.

        That'd require a high degree of mental discipline, to the point of being able to control both the content of your thoughts and their timing. That kind of discipline is sorely lacking in the general population, unfortunately. The way I often put it is that most people do not govern their thoughts and view them as a tool like any other; instead, most people are governed by their thoughts and can hardly imagine experiencing life apart from them. I am mostly talking here about when you "think to yourself" in your native language, and the problem with that is that when you experience all of life this way, you lose much of your ability to directly apprehend new realizations and must instead to go through the proxy of symbolic language for everything you experience.

        Most people have a constant and endless supply of somewhat random thoughts that continuously pop into and out of their heads and could hardly sustain complete mental silence (i.e. a form of meditation) for even a few seconds, let alone selectively shut out unwanted thoughts with ease to effortlessly emphasize any particular one. This wouldn't be such a problem for relatively simple controls like "move this mouse cursor to the place I am thinking of" but would be a big problem for anyone intending to mentally dictate sentences and paragraphs and complex lines of reasoning without having to constantly make corrections.

        What interests me is whether machines that accept this kind of input would lead to this kind of mental discipline becoming more common, as most seem to find no adventure in exploring their capabilities and fine-tuning their minds and therefore would balk at the effort without some externally imposed reason. It's a shame it has to be that way, that many need to have a fire of some kind lit under their asses before they will challenge their own limits. However, I still imagine that a society of more effective and capable thinkers would be radically different from the one that we know today and could only be an improvement. It would definitely be better than the widespread ignorance (of learning how to learn) that, whether you believe they encourage it or not, is definitely politically convenient for the powers-that-be.

        • by siride (974284)
          The problem has already been solved by the brain. Although we have all sorts of thoughts going on all the time, we only act on a few of them.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by causality (777677)

            The problem has already been solved by the brain. Although we have all sorts of thoughts going on all the time, we only act on a few of them.

            You'll have the problem anew if you come up with machines that interpret mental activity. A mouse and keyboard, after all, need to be acted upon. A machine that takes brainwaves for input is an input device with no such constraints.

            • Well, "being acted upon" is also the result of certain brainwaves: If those special brainwaves occur, they will be sent down the nerves to your muscles. So there are obviously controllable brainwaves. So it might be possible to control those brainwaves which are used for the communication device as well. The brain waves to interpret would probably have to be specially selected for that.

              Indeed, the trick may be to ask the person: "Imagine that you explicitly send a thought to another person" and identify spe

            • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward

              The arm moving the mouse is "a machine that takes brainwaves for input."

        • by maxume (22995)

          So wait, you have trained yourself to be some sort of mental jagoff?

        • What is sad is that so many people wouldn't even understand what you just said. Self-discipline is rare in modern times, exceedingly so when there is no external motivation. Internal mental discipline is both useful and rewarding, but nobody else is going to care. Yet.

          Regarding the article, this is a thin wedge opening a path to much more interesting work. In this case their method relies on subconscious visual processing. Extra-sensory doesn't necessarily mean some mysterious sixth sense, just that inform

          • by Draek (916851)

            Internal mental discipline is both useful and rewarding, but nobody else is going to care. Yet.

            Care to mention some uses? the ability to think in abstracts instead of in any given "language" is certainly useful, as all languages have limitations in their expressivity, but mental discipline as the GP described, the ability to achieve complete mental silence and/or give complete regards to a single thought, seems useless at best and harmful at worst by impairing the ability to mentally "multitask".

      • Just be careful not to think "first post"

        Or "frost piss".

        • Or "frost piss".

          Not so much for the mental slashdot submission, more because that might cause an unfortunate collaboration between your toilet and freezer.

      • They already have that, it's called schizophrenia.

      • All of you, PLEASE you're driving me INSANE with your rattling on about how Idle is pants. I know that. And I know what you think about CmdrTaco, I just don't care. And no, I don't want to join the GNAA so STOP ASKING. And I'm allergic to grits. Oh god, did you have to tell us that about yourself? I can't even make sense of this any more, must be a Microsoft Patch Tuesday submission in the firehose.

        MAKE IT STOP, I beg of you.

  • This sounds a lot like Snow Crash to me - making brains respond automatically to perceived binary input. I wonder if it would be possible to use a sequence of flashing lights to stimulate the brain in the correct manner to produce useful perceptual data within the target brain?
    • It is easy to mess with the internals of a brain by pulsing lights at the right frequency. 8 to 12 Hz [wikipedia.org] is a key danger area. And guess what frequency bicycle tail lights flash at? Pulsing light sources are well known to cause seizures.

      • And guess what frequency bicycle tail lights flash at?

        FWIW, I've never seen a bike light flashing at more than approx. 3 Hz. Mine is about 2.5 Hz.

  • by selven (1556643) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @05:01PM (#29706071)
    Just imagine how useful these could be to disabled people.
  • Binary I/O from humans. Please, hide this story and the research, don't let the RIAA or MPAA find out, or they will use this to find a way to plug "the analogue hole".

  • by jipn4 (1367823) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @05:17PM (#29706171)

    and transmits them to the second user's brain through flashing an LED lamp

    Bah, that's nothing. When I talk to my wife, I transmit my brain impulses through air, simply by flapping my tongue, and it is transmitted to her brain via vibrations in thin air! Isn't it amazing? ESP and all?

    • by selven (1556643)

      When I talk to my wife,

      Who are you and how did you sneak past the mind-reading entrance guards?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rvw (755107)

      Bah, that's nothing. When I talk to my wife, I transmit my brain impulses through air, simply by flapping my tongue, and it is transmitted to her brain via vibrations in thin air! Isn't it amazing? ESP and all?

      Wife, flapping tongue, vibrations... Man that's way too much for us simple slashdotters to handle in one sentence. We prefer flashing LEDs mind you!

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by 91degrees (207121)
      Really? When I talk to my wife, a completely different message is received by her half the time.
    • Rubbish, sir! Women don't ever talk to us!

  • IETF RFC? (Score:5, Funny)

    by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Saturday October 10, 2009 @05:23PM (#29706205)

    Well, until the IETF issues an RFC on this technology, it will be a non-starter.

    "IP over ESP" . . . usually seen around the 1st of April.

    Can we increase the bandwidth, by meth'ing up the subject?

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Only if you want to meth up your tetht rethults too.

  • It's not extra-sensory perception unless the human us sensing things outside the normal perception channels. From the article, it sounds like this is just another input device for a computer to be controlled by a human.

    And the title of the article, "Communicating person to person through the power of thought alone", is false, since this thing wouldn't work without electricity. By the same logic, I'm communicating with Slashdot readers right now by the power of thought alone, well of course with the help o

  • Hold on a momment guys, my cat is sending me binary telepathic messages.

    01100110011011110110111101100100001000000110...

    F...o...o..d......b...o...w..l.......e..m...p...t...y
  • Like many posts above, i agree that this is NOT telepathy. It is "communication through thought" (from TFA) in the sense that no one spoke or wrote anything down. In TFA they do not use the term ESP, that was added by the OP.

    The easy *correct* experiment would be to ask the sender to think of right vs. left and then read that thought with EEG and then activate the receivers brain with transcranial magnetic stimulation over left vs. right visual cortex (TMS [wikipedia.org])

    The much cooler and much harder experiment would

  • ..Knock, knock!

    .

    .

    ......... Get it?

  • The more the article told me about the experiment, the less I cared. ~
  • Neurosky's brain computer interface hardware/software would work much more effectively for this.

  • this is from (http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2009/05/pentagon-preps-soldier-telepathy-push) "...$4 million for a program named Silent Talk, which aims to "allow user-to-user communication on the battlefield without the use of vocalized speech through analysis of neural signals.""
  • The communication is there, so now all we need is a way to snoop. Logical progression for a security geek.
  • RIAA lawyer: someone invented a new p2p data sharing scheme? And it's even computer-aided? Surely it could be used to share music... Sue the bastards to hell, rape their wives and daughters, and profit!!!11!!
  • "You must think in Russian. Slowly..."

  • Would someone mind explaining this? The summary makes it sound like telepathy (with a computer encoding and decoding the signals).
    As far as I understand it, the person imagines lifting one of their arms. This is picked up and sent over the Internet. At the other end, a light flashes the EEG readings, and the other person's subconscious observes this, which is picked up by their EEG device, and translated into a "left-arm raise" or "right-arm raise", which is then translated into a zero or one.

    Frankly, I

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