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The IET Wheatstone Lecture

Communicating person to person through the power of thought alone

 

About the lecture

 

Brain-Computer Interfacing (BCI) can be used for capturing brain signals and translating them into commands that allow humans to control (just by thinking) devices such as computers, robots, rehabilitation technology and virtual reality environments.

In May 2009 Professor James conducted an experiment* with the aim of expanding the current limits of this technology and show that brain-to-brain (B2B) communication is possible. The experiment involved one person using BCI who transmitted a series of binary digits over the internet to another person whose computer received the digits and transmitted them to the second user's brain through flashing an LED lamp.

Whilst BCI is no longer a new thing and person to person communication via the nervous system has been shown in the past here, for the first time, true brain to brain interfacing was shown. Full implications of this are yet to be understood but there are some scenarios where B2B could be of huge benefit such as intelligence and gaming, perhaps.

This talk will introduce BCI and the field of neural engineering in general, as well as how B2B was enacted in the experiment. Above all it will pose the question - is brain to brain communication through technological innovation truly achievable?

*In the experiment, one person, using BCI, transmitted a series of binary digits over the internet to another person whose computer received the digits and transmitted them to the second user's brain through flashing an LED lamp. While attached to an EEG amplifier, the first person would generate and transmit a series of binary digits, imagining moving their left arm for zero and their right arm for one. The second person was also attached to an EEG amplifier and their PC would pick up the stream of binary digits and flash an LED lamp at two different frequencies, one frequency for zero and one frequency for one. The flashing LEDs generated steady-state visual evoked potentials in the brain of the second person - the PCs read this data from the electroencephalograms of each person. The encoded information was then extracted from the brain activity of the second user and the PC deciphered whether a zero or a one was transmitted. This showed true brain-to-brain activity.

 

History

The Wheatstone Lecture commemorates the life and work of Sir Charles Wheatstone (1802 - 1875), whose contributions to British science and engineering included work on the Cooke-Wheatstone Telegraph and the Wheatstone Bridge.

The purpose of this event is to demonstrate the technologies that are relevant to the measurement, sensors, instrumentation and NDT Network and also encourage young people to take up engineering by demonstrating the exciting projects that engineers work on.

 


See also