Telepathy: 'Mind Reading' Computer Deciphers Words From Brainwaves

First Posted: Jan 06, 2016 11:09 AM EST

Japanese scientists have potentially developed a device that can "read minds," a computer that can read information from brainwaves and decipher words before they are spoken. This "telepathic" computer allowed the researchers to realize that the brain's electrical activity is the same whether words are spoken aloud or held inside.

A team of scientists, led by Yamazaki Toshimasa, the Kyushu Institute of Technology's brain computer interface expert, examined the brains of 12 men, women and children while they recited a series of words, recording their brainwaves while the subjects did so. They used an electroencephalogram, or EEG, as their method of identifying words in the Broca area of the brain.

The researchers said that the device is able to examine brainwaves to identify the syllables and letters of the Japanese alphabet, giving the device the ability to decipher words and phrases without them needing to be said aloud, according to the Daily Mail. They identified the Japanese words for "goo," "par" and "scissors" with the computer before they were spoken.

Each syllable produced a specific bit of brain wave activity from the initial thought about the word to the act of speaking it, with the time frame of brain activity taking up to two seconds for each word. The researchers built a database of these brainwaves, allowing them to match them to words without the subject speaking them. The algorithms they developed could identify the Japanese words for spring and summer ("natsu" and "haru"), 47 percent and 25 percent of the time, according to a paper from the Institute of Electronics, Information and Communication Engineers.

Single characters in the Japanese language were correctly identified almost 90 percent of the time. Additionally, the Japanese words for "will," "one," "turning," and "do" were successfully identified around 80-90 percent of the time.

The study has opened up the possibility for people who have lost the ability to speak, or have become paralyzed to be able to communicate once more, according to Toshimasa. He also believes that the control of robots through brainwaves could become a reality, according to Nishinippon, a Japanese newspaper.

This echoes similarities from another "telepathic" computer built in 2010 by British scientists from the University College London that is able to decipher thought patterns by scanning the hippocampus, differentiating between memories and other recollections. Their algorithm correctly identified which of three short films a participant was recalling at a given time with 50 percent accuracy, well above the level of chance, according to the Telegraph.

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