Brain-computer interface for controlling Second Life avatars


Researchers from the Biomedical Engineering Laboratory at Keio University in Japan have developed a brain-computer interface that enables users to control the movements of Second Life avatars without moving a muscle.

The device consists of a headset containing electrodes which monitor electrical activity in the motor cortex, the region of the brain involved in planning, executing and controlling movements.

All a user has to do to control his/her avatar is imagine performing various movements. The activity monitored by the headpiece is read and plotted by an electroencephalogram, which relays it to a computer running a brain wave analysis algorithm that interprets the imagined movements. A keyboard emulator then translates the data into signals which can be used to control the movements of the user’s on-screen avatar in real-time.

Below is a film clip of the device in use.

[Via Pink Tentacle]


27 thoughts on “Brain-computer interface for controlling Second Life avatars

  1. Sweet. Just read The Hacker and the Ants by Rudy Rucker about three weeks ago. This is getting close to the interfaces he describes. Just need neurostimulation to actually put the user into cyberspace and away we go.

  2. As cool as this seems, there is one small concern! If a person hooked up to that machine can have there brain signals read, translated into action, then what’s to stop the reverse.
    In other words, the computer/program sending commands to influence the person!

  3. Just when you thought the masses could not dumb down anymore….Surprise
    If you supposedly intelligent people spent half as much time in the real world called life, you might think differently, and we would probably have a better world to boot. But on the upside at least you are going to be easy to corral for us mercs. You probably won’t even hear us come in.

  4. “If you supposedly intelligent people spent half as much time in the real world called life, you might think differently, and we would probably have a better world to boot. But on the upside at least you are going to be easy to corral for us mercs. You probably won’t even hear us come in.”
    The real world is making the transfer into the abstract. Avatars are an inauspicious beginning of the NEU!
    Total cognitive mapping into electronic meta-realities based on mass imaginative participation. The only two questions remaining:
    1. If we all move into an electronic world, who will keep the electricity flowing?
    2. Will it matter if the electricity stops?

  5. It seems to me that I read about a device like this in Scientific America Mind. It helped improve the executive function of the brain in people with ADHD and other disorders that impair this function.
    Besides that, it looks like a lot of fun. I have problems with my hands going numb from typing and using the mouse. I would love to try it. It would be great for anyone who has difficulty with his or her hands or coordination.

  6. nubs, read nuromancer.
    although the tech interface seems interesting, it sounds a litle iffy to me. The video needs better documentation. How does a technological device, know what your imagining, and the how does that impact bandwith, and refreshrates. All i have to say is chop factor on the lag, for crapy herystics, and poor designe. It might be a good thing, and it might not. “imagination” is a big word, and i can imagine alot. What about MMORPG’s like wow, and other games, how would they work with these environments, and animations.

  7. It’s a cool new application of very old findings:
    1) motor areas of the brain are very conveniently mapped out (this is nothing new: look up the homunculus)
    2) planning actions leads to increased activity in corresponding motor areas (this is nothing new: look up premotor cortex and mirror neurons)
    3) it is possible to record gross changes in activity in broad areas of the brain pretty quickly (this is nothing new: see nearly every device for measuring evoked-potentials).
    It’s super super super cool that they’re able to get something like this to work, but for the naysayers: yes, this is a plausible device. For the “z0mg the future is here” people: no, this is not really reading your mind.

  8. I guess you should not confuse the visualization of motor activity in the brain with its translation into willful operation of machinery.
    I know that functional MRI can tell you a lot about regional brain activity. However, turning a thought into mechanical action? Which wavelength are you talking about?
    Get real!!

  9. Brainedge – research performed on monkeys over the past thirty years has determined specific patterns of electrical activity associated with the planning of movements. This takes place in the premotor cortex prior to the execution of all movements. All brain-computer interfaces exploit this; they work by reading these patterns and translating them into commands that can be used control various devices, including prosthetic limbs and wheelchairs. (See also Brian’s comment, #19.)
    So which wavelength are you on? Do you know anything about neuroscience? And do you read the newspapers at all? Because just such a device was front page news in July last year.
    Here’s a Nature Web Focus on BCIs.

  10. My knowledge of science does not come from third rate tabloids. However, the Nature study that you have referred to, takes into account an EMBEDDED ELECTRODE in the brain.
    So really you are off the chart buddy!
    We are not there yet. Not with this hoax.
    What is next? Time travel by year 2010?
    Good Luck. And do not try to be too ‘flammish’ cuz I can do better than you. Refrain yourself from being nasty.

  11. When man steps into gods sandbox, will he sell his soul for it?
    In the next few years, when a complete, neural chip comes out and is embeded in all emerging technology and we can augment or diminish, thoughts, emotions, and sensory perceptions, “we” will experience what is called paradigm shift, are we ready to have some-one be able to read
    our thoughts or affect our bodys with augmented neural patterns,whether we want it or not.Who will monitor the kinder- garden gods when they come out to play.

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