Brain-Controlled Gadgets

Despite trying to convince ourselves that telekinesis is possible, any possible cases of the ability are strictly relegated to the realms of pseudo-science for now, with a serious lack of conclusive evidence in their favour. However, neuroscience is already enabling the use of the human mind for controlling objects in the physical world, using equipment often referred to as a brain-machine interface (BMI) or a brain-computer interface (BCI).

Direct interface between our brains and machines is now possible. However, emergent devices in this sphere often require “brain training” in order to function, and their successful use is dependent on our ability to summon quite specific brainwaves and frequencies at will. This technology is based mostly based on machine interpretation of signals naturally produced by our brains.

For example, a machine could interpret a brain signal as corresponding to our imagining a specific shape or image, through familiarity with reading our brain function over time. The machine may then duplicate an approximation of the image on a screen; theoretically it could also interpret qualities such as colour, movement and texture in order to represent them.

With this technology, video games will become far more immersive, creating the illusion of magic within the game as players tune, move, lift or manifest virtual objects and change the landscape, colours and lights of virtual surroundings while playing. This might occur according to specific intentions, or even matching general features of the moods of players.

The interpretation of our thoughts can of course be applied in more practical terms in our daily lives. We should not be surprised if before long we are living in “smart homes” where we can control our household devices and turn on and off screens, computers, heating, lights and doors simply by mentally willing it.

There are already some examples of cars that can be controlled via BMI. Scientists have applied similar technologies to control wheelchairs designed for the physically impaired, and the control of prosthetic limbs with our brain signals is also possible.

These technologies are still posing many challenges for their developers and users since they require a lot of training and patience in order to be able to send the right signals to the machines. However, scientists are very optimistic in relation to the effective control of robotic systems using BMI systems.

Some gadgets based on similar developments of neuroscience are indeed already on the market.

Some examples are Emotiv-Epoc, MUSE and Neurosky. All three claim to able to measure and track brain signals including emotions and levels of stress, concentration and relaxation in order to help us learn how to optimize the activity of our brains and produce specific brain signals which can be recognised by computers and other electronic devices.

Soon the strength of our brains, creativity and the bounds of our imaginations might be interpreted and reproduced by computer systems, and we may find ourselves recreating our thoughts via the direct medium of an interfaced electronic device. The implications for art, amongst many other areas, are extraordinary. In a literal sense this time, our imagination will be the only limit.


Khan, M., Hong, M., & Hong, K. (2014). Decoding of four movement directions using hybrid NIRS-EEG brain-computer interface Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8 DOI: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00244

Ramos-Murguialday, A., Broetz, D., Rea, M., Läer, L., Yilmaz, ?., Brasil, F., Liberati, G., Curado, M., Garcia-Cossio, E., Vyziotis, A., Cho, W., Agostini, M., Soares, E., Soekadar, S., Caria, A., Cohen, L., & Birbaumer, N. (2013). Brain-machine interface in chronic stroke rehabilitation: A controlled study Annals of Neurology, 74 (1), 100-108 DOI: 10.1002/ana.23879

Image via Yuganov Konstantin / Shutterstock.

Lorena Nessi, PhD, MA

Lorena Nessi PhD is an award winning journalist, researcher, and cultural sociologist. Her Bachelor's was in International Relations, Master’s degree in Globalization, Identity and Technology, and PhD in Communication, Sociology and Digital Cultures. She received the Avina scholarship for investigative journalism while working for the BBC. Her fields of interest include digital cultures, sociology, social media, technology and capitalism.
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