Researchers have developed a method that allows three people to work together to solve problems using brain signals. (Image credit: University of Washington)


Researchers from the University of Washington have developed a method that brings humans one step closer to telepathy, by allowing three people to work in concert to solve problems using nothing but their brain signals and an internet connection.


Their BrainNet non-invasive interface allowed three researchers to play the video game Tetris, acting as a team. Only two of them (known as transmitters) were able to see the blocks and their arrangements but can’t control the game, while the third (the receiver) could only see the block, but not how it needs to be rotated to complete the line.


Each sender decides how that block needs to be rotated, and then sends that information over an internet connection to the receiver, who then processes that information and adjusts the block accordingly. Both senders have access to a display that shows the game, which also has the word ‘yes’ on one side and ‘no’ on the other. Beneath the yes option is an LED, which flashes 17 times, while the no option flashes just 15. Both senders wear an EEG cap, and once they decide on how to rotate the puzzle piece, they then concentrate on the corresponding LED.



Those flashing LEDs trigger signals from a specific part of the brain, which the EEG caps pick up and send to a computer that provides real-time feedback by moving a cursor on the screen that rolls over to their choice of yes or no. The selection is then translated to the answer and sent over the internet to the receiver, who wears a piece of headgear outfitted with a coil that stimulates the part of the brain that translates signals take from their eyes. That stimulation causes them to see bright flashes or arcs of light, so if the answer is yes, they see the light, and no, if they do not.


The researchers found that participants successfully cleared the line 81% of the time while playing Tetris, and hope their results will pave the way for brain-to-brain interfaces that would allow groups of people to solve complex problems one person can’t solve on their own.


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