I'm a fan of controllers, I like sitting down on a couch as much as the next person -- but controlling video games with your mind? Surely that's the end goal. Jan Scheuermann, a quadriplegic and volunteer in a series of Pentagon-funded experiments has taken us one step closer to that goal. She just controlled a complicated F-35 simulator using nothing but her mind. Amazing.
In 2012 Scheuermann allowed surgeons to implant electrodes into her brain, these electrodes allowed her to control a robotic arm using thoughts. Flying a virtual F-35 was the next step.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the experiment: Scheuermann is not controlling the F-35 like you might expect. She's not thinking about the controls themselves, she's actually moving the plane itself. This is Matrix-level stuff: there is no spoon.
"Instead of thinking about controlling a joystick, which is what our ace pilots do when they’re driving this thing, Jan’s thinking about controlling the airplane directly," said Arati Prabhakar, director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). "For someone who’s never flown — she’s not a pilot in real life — she’s flying that simulator directly from her neural signaling."
Yeah, that's fairly incredible.
But it opens up some ethical discussions, discussions that raise difficult questions.
“In doing this work, we’ve also opened this door,” she said. “We can now see a future where we can free the brain from the limitations of the human body and I think we can all imagine amazing good things and amazing potential bad things that are on the other side of that door.”
Geoffrey Ling, one of the lead scientists behind the project said he felt the same tingles he did when man first walked on the moon.
"I realised that we have now stepped over a great threshold into what’s possible," he said, back when Scheuermann initially began learning to control the robotic arm with her mind.
Are you thinking what I'm thinking?
Yep. Video games.
This Woman Flew an F-35 Simulator with Her Mind [Defence.org]