2011 Top Ten: 10. We may not be able to move mountains with our minds, but robots will await our mental commands.
Brain-based control of conventional keyboards, allowing individuals to type without physically touching the keys, has been demonstrated at the universities of Wisconsin and Michigan. In the near future, brain e-mailing and tweeting will become far more common, say experts, though these interfaces remain extremely slow.
A group of undergraduates at Northeastern University demonstrated in June that they could steer a robot via thought. The subject in the experiment watched a computer screen and selected commands using his retina, causing electrical activity in the brain’s visual cortex ranging from 4 to 100 hertz. The signals were then translated to a small robot, similar to the Roomba vacuum cleaner. Improved brain–computer interfaces could allow users to control a robotic arm. A longer-term goal is to build interfaces for robotic prostheses, so that users could use their minds to control their own artificial limbs.