Sit down for this one. Researchers at the University of Washington have figured out how to send commands from one person's brain to control a different person's muscle movement. In technical terms, it's the world's first noninvasive human-to-human brain interface. How'd they do it? Vulcan mind meld? Nope, just the regular ol' internet. What in the hell?
Here's how it went down: In one building, computational neuroscientist Rajesh Rao sat wearing an electroencephalography cap, which measures the brain's electrical activity. Dr. Rao watched a simple computer game, firing a cannon at a target. At the right moment, Dr. Rao imagined moving his right hand to hit the "fire" button, being sure not to actually move his hand.
Across campus, Dr. Rao's colleague, Professor Andrea Stocco, wore a cap holding a transcranial magnetic stimulation coil, which sits on the scalp and stimulates muscle control regions of the brain with a magnetic impulse. He wore noise-blocking earplugs and faced away from the video screen. Signals sent from Dr. Rao's cap traveled through the internet and trigger Dr. Stocco's cap. The result? Dr. Stocco's finger hit the "fire" button on Dr. Rao's command.
As sci-fi bizarro as this sounds, the whole setup basically used off-the-shelf components. The electroencephalogram cap that picked up the brain activity, and the transcranial coil that transmitted it, have been deployed in scientific experiments for years, and the internet's not exactly a recent innovation either. But while researchers have performed brain-to-brain communication between rats and from a human to a rat, the University of Washington team claims this is the first human-to-human brain interface.