Science/Tech

Telepathic Games: Scientists Achieve First ‘Brain-To-Brain’ Connection

Humans may soon talk and connect to each other and their devices with just their minds. For the first time, scientists have demonstrated the first brain-to-brain network that allowed more than two people to receive and send information in a manner similar to telepathy.

Researchers from the University of Washington tested the new method called BrainNet, which allowed three people to play a Tetris-like game using only a brain-to-brain interface. 

"We wanted to know if a group of people could collaborate using only their brains,” Rajesh Rao, a professor in the UW's Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering, said in a statement. “That's how we came up with the idea of BrainNet: where two people help a third person solve a task."

During the demonstration, Rao’s team assigned two people to be “senders” and one user to be the “receiver.” While playing the Tetris-inspired game, senders can see both the block and the line but are not allowed to control the game.

Meanwhile, the receiver can control the game but can’t see the line. BrainNet allowed senders to send information to the receiver on how to rotate the blocks. 

Data was transmitted from their brain, through the internet and to the brain of the receiver. The results, published in the journal Scientific Reports, showed that the three players were able to link their minds and complete the game without talking or seeing each other. 

"To deliver the message to the receiver, we used a cable that ends with a wand that looks like a tiny racket behind the receiver's head,” Andrea Stocco, an assistant professor at UW and the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, said. “This coil stimulates the part of the brain that translates signals from the eyes." 

She explained that the technology worked to “trick” neurons in the brain to spread the message.

What made BrainNet remarkable was it allowed the receiver to send corrections to senders if they disagreed with their decision. Players successfully completed the game 81 percent of the time, the researchers said. 

The UW team hopes to see their technology support future development of brain-to-brain interfaces for technologies that would support collaborations of people using their minds.

BrainNet University of Washington researchers created a method for two people help a third person solve a task using only their minds. Heather Wessel, a recent UW graduate with a bachelor's degree in psychology (left), and Savannah Cassis, a UW undergraduate in psychology (right) sent information about a Tetris-like game from their brains over the internet to UW psychology graduate student Theodros Haile's (middle) brain. Haile could then manipulate the game with his mind. Mark Stone/University of Washington

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