Mind-Reading Machine Used to Tweet

This Machine Has No Brain.

Originally uploaded by Thomas Roche

Researcher-grad student Adam Wilson at the University of Wisconsin has used a mind-reading machine to post a 23-character message on Twitter. Justin Williams, UW Biomedical Engineering professor and Wilson’s advisor, explained it thusly, referring to previous “mind-reading” experiments that allow users to move a cursor:

We started thinking that moving a cursor on a screen is a good scientific exercise. But when we talk to people who have locked-in syndrome or a spinal-cord injury, their No. 1 concern is communication.

The device he and his colleagues at the Wadsworth Center in Albany, NY created shows the user a keyboard on a screen, and the following happens:

All the letters come up, and each one of them flashes individually. And what your brain does is, if you’re looking at the ‘R’ on the screen and all the other letters are flashing, nothing happens. But when the ‘R’ flashes, your brain says, “Hey, wait a minute. Something’s different about what I was just paying attention to.” And you see a momentary change in brain activity.


Wilson said the interface is slow, and feels much like sending texts by numeric keypad. With practice users can get up to about eight characters per minute.

According to Discovery News, the message was “USING EEG TO SEND TWEET.” Don’t they teach cyborgs not to shout? Discovery News also reports that although the technology is not yet commercially available, ten patients will soon begin testing it out at home. Said Wilson: “We know it works. The next question is how to integrate it into people’s homes, so that a caretaker could set it up without need for outside help.”

Disappointingly, the “associated stories” at the bottom of the Yahoo story promises to show me a video of the mind reading machine in action, but then sends me to story about how men report more sex partners than women. Psych!

YouTube to the rescue — view the footage of the machine in action here. That little red hat is very fashionable.

Image by Thomas Roche, taken at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, Illinois.

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