The next generation of toys could be controlled by the power of the mind, thanks to new research.
Led by Professor Christopher James, Director of Warwick Engineering in Biomedicine at the School of Engineering, technology has been developed which allows electronic devices to be activated using electrical impulses from brain waves, by connecting our thoughts to computerised systems. Some of the most popular toys on children’s lists to Santa — such as remote-controlled cars and helicopters, toy robots and Scalextric racing sets — could all be controlled via a headset, using ‘the power of thought’. This could be based on levels of concentration — thinking of your favourite colour or stroking your dog, for example.
Instead of a hand-held controller, a headset is used to create a brain-computer interface — a communication link between the human brain and the computerised device. Sensors in the headset measure the electrical impulses from brain at various different frequencies — each frequency can be somewhat controlled, under special circumstances. This activity is then processed by a computer, amplified and fed into the electrical circuit of the electronic toy.
Auke Jan Ijspeert, who leads the Biorobotics Laboratory at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, said: “Being able to fight against gravity is always a big problem for terrestrial animals and robots,” Ijspeert told Live Science. “Such a system could be useful for applications in field robotics, for example, for search and rescue, pollution monitoring, inspection or agriculture.”
Are you a chortler? What about guffaws, giggles or hyena laughs? If you have the best laugh, whatever the joyful sound, it could end up getting turned into a 3D-printed sculpture sent into space. Israeli artist and computer programmer Eyal Gever is leading this collaborative project called #Laugh.
In coming up with #Laugh, Gever had to come up with art that would have universal appeal, literally. The final piece couldn’t be specific to any particular country or culture. His friend, the British spoken word poet Suli Breaks, suggested laughter. Gever is using crowdsourcing to gather laughter submissions and identify the most popular audio, which he’ll turn into a file transmitted to Made In Space’s 3-D printer aboard the ISS. The resulting sculpture will get released into space.
In order to participate, you need to download the free #Laugh app from iTunes, which only works on iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch devices that have iOS 7.0 or later. Laughs submitted through the app have until midnight on December 31 to garner the most “likes” on social media. The crowd-selected laugh audio submission will be announced next month and then heads to the International Space Station in February to emerge as a very strange star.