Scientists say they have created a sort of brain-to-brain interface, which allowed three people to play a game of Tetris together.
Publishing their research in the journal arXiv, researchers led by Linxing Jiang from the University of Washington in Seattle said one person was able to "send thoughts” to two other people.
In the study, they tasked three participants with playing a Tetris-style game. Their brain activity was recorded using an electroencephalogram (EEG), while transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was used to send information from the brain. The network they used to do this is called BrainNet.
To send signals, the network first measures brain signals via the EEG. Then, using the TMS, its possible to trigger specific brain activity, like seeing a flash of light.
“Together, these devices make it possible to send and receive signals directly to and from the brain,” notes MIT Tech Review. “But nobody has created a network that allows group communication. Until now.”
The game, like Tetris, involved rotating a block on a screen so that it fits into a space. It’s a bit simplified though, as the shape only needs to be rotated 180 degrees – or not – in order to fit.
Two of the people in the study were the “senders.” They stared at flashing lights on either side of a screen to “rotate” and “don’t rotate”, flashing at different frequencies, to induce a specific brain signal. Then the "receiver", who could not see the screen, received their signals via the TMS.
And they also introduced a bit of error, having one of the senders send the wrong signal, to see how successful the receiver could be. Overall, with five groups of three people, they had a fairly decent success rate of 81.25 percent.
“This isn't telepathy by any stretch. It requires external intervention, and can only send one ‘bit’ of data at a time,” said Engadget. “The technology could scale up to a much larger number of people, though, and it suggests that you could eventually transmit considerably more complex thoughts across groups.”
So we’re not quite going to be sending each other our thoughts any time soon. But it’s a pretty interesting look at how the brain works, and a fun look at what sort of communication may one day be possible.