Telepathic communication might be one step closer to reality thanks to new research from the University of Washington. A team created a method that allows three people to work together to solve a problem using only their minds.
In BrainNet, three people play a Tetris-like game using a brain-to-brain interface. This is the first demonstration of two things: a brain-to-brain network of more than two people, and a person being able to both receive and send information to others using only their brain.
As in Tetris, the game shows a block at the top of the screen and a line that needs to be completed at the bottom. Two people, the Senders, can see both the block and the line but can’t control the game. The third person, the Receiver, can see only the block but can tell the game whether to rotate the block to successfully complete the line.
The team asked five groups of participants to play 16 rounds of the game. For each group, all three participants were in different rooms and couldn’t see, hear or speak to one another.
The Senders wore electroencephalography caps that picked up electrical activity in their brains. The lights’ different flashing patterns trigger unique types of activity in the brain, which the caps can pick up. So, as the Senders stared at the light for their corresponding selection, the cap picked up those signals, and the computer provided real-time feedback by displaying a cursor on the screen that moved toward their desired choice.
The team hopes that these results pave the way for future brain-to-brain interfaces that allow people to collaborate to solve tough problems that one brain alone couldn’t solve.