Image courtesy Hitachi Japan
More research being done in brain-machine interface technology

Hitachi has reportedly created and successfully tested an interface that allows users to turn a power switch on and off by using their brain only (English). Optical topography, a neuroimaging technique which measures the changes in blood hemoglobin concentration in parts of the brain responsible for mental activity, is utilized with Hitachi's brain-controlled interface. Any significant changes monitored in the brain blood flow is then translated into voltage signals that are used for activating the model train's power switch.

Although the technology isn't all that revolutionary, the research is continuing to look promising. The Hitachi prototype currently only allows users to control the on/off switch, but researchers hope that they can use the signals for advanced functions. For example, researchers hope to one day be able to help disabled users become more independent by letting them use their mind to carry out basic actions.

Hitachi hopes to make its brain-interface technology available to consumers within five years.  As Hitachi's research continues, other companies are currently working on similar technology -- Berlin researchers are testing a "mental typewriter" that is able to identify and process commands from the brain.

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