Scientists showcase brain-to-brain communication with game of 3-player ‘Tetris’

In the future, we might be able to use brain implants like Elon Musk’s proposed Neuralink to directly connect both with other electronic devices and human beings; transmitting thoughts through a kind of high-tech telepathy. That’s still a long ways away, but researchers from the University of Washington have passed a milestone on that journey: Creating a BrainNet “social network” of minds which allows three people to send thoughts to one another’s heads. The goal? Playing a game of Tetris, obviously!

Tetris was used as an example of a task where two humans can see the solution but are unable to act, motivating a collaboration with a third human who can act but is unable to see the solution,” Professor Rajesh Rao, one of the researchers on the project, told Digital Trends. “Other games with a similar division of labor could also be used. A game such as Tetris provides a familiar and interesting setting for participants in brain-to-brain collaboration experiments.”

As Rao notes, for this particular demonstration, the idea was to get three people in separate rooms collaborating to play a game of telepathic Tetris. Two of the participants were able to see a screen showing the falling Tetris blocks, which may or may not need rotating in order to fit the row of blocks at the bottom of the screen. The other participant was the only person able to control the game but was unable to see what was happening on-screen. By using brain signals taken from the first two participants via an electroencephalogram (EEG), capable of reading electrical activity in the brain, they were able to trigger LED lights, telling the player what move to make.

Next to the idea of sending complex thoughts to other people, this is relatively basic research — although it lays exciting groundwork for future studies.

“Current brain-to-brain interfaces are extremely limited in the amount of information transmitted between brains, preventing practical applications,” Rao acknowledged. “However, with sufficient advances in brain recording and stimulation technologies, one could imagine networks of connected brains in the future producing innovative and creative solutions to humanity’s most important scientific and societal problems within an ethically responsible framework.”

Linxing Jiang, another researcher on the project, told us that: “We see brain-to-brain interfaces opening up futuristic ways for communication. Such interfaces could also be used by people with brain injuries who are paralyzed and unable to communicate, [since] decoding and encoding information from the brain directly might be the only way for them to communicate.”

A paper describing the research, titled “BrainNet: A Multi-Person Brain-to-Brain Interface for Direct Collaboration Between Brains,” is available to read online.

Computing

Microsoft leans on A.I. to bring real-time closed-captioning to PowerPoint

PowerPoint is getting an artificial intelligence interpreter to help make presentations more accessible. The A.I.-driven feature was announced by Microsoft as a way to deliver real-time translation or transcription of presentations.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Twilight Zone’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Mobile

5G’s arrival is transforming tech. Here’s everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.
Mobile

Verizon begins RCS messaging rollout with the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL

What is RCS messaging? It's the successor to today's text messaging. It offers features like real-time audio, read receipts, and encryption, but adoption so far has been slow. Here's everything you need to know.
Emerging Tech

Early-detection system for wildfires could save many states from big burns

When it comes to dealing with the growing problem of raging wildfires, a new wireless smart sensor system could help spot burgeoning blazes before they rage out of control. Here's how it works.
Outdoors

Light up the night! Here are the five best headlamps money can buy

Headlamps make all the difference when camping or walking the dog at night, especially when you're in need of both hands. From Black Diamond and Petzl to Coast here are some of the best headlamps on the market.
Emerging Tech

Elon Musk to unveil tunnel elevators and autonomous pods on December 18

We'll soon learn if Elon Musk's high-speed tunnel plan is a serious effort at ending traffic jams or little more than a fancy theme park ride. A big unveiling event is coming on December 18, a week later than originally planned.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Emerging Tech

Feast your eyes on the wildest, most elaborate Rube Goldberg machines ever built

Want to see something totally mesmerizing? Check out several of the best Rube Goldberg machines from across the internet, including one that serves cake and other that do ... nothing particularly useful.
Emerging Tech

The 20 best tech toys for kids will make you wish you were 10 again

Looking for the perfect toy or gadget for your child? Thankfully, we've rounded up some of our personal favorite tech toys, including microscopes, computer kits, and a spherical droid from a galaxy far, far away.
Emerging Tech

Scoot your commute! Here are the 9 best electric scooters on the market

Electric scooters are an affordable, convenient way to minimize your carbon footprint and zip around town. Check out 8 of our current favorites, whether you're working with a budget or have some cash to spare.
Emerging Tech

Sick of walking everywhere? Here are the best electric skateboards you can buy

Thanks for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, electric skateboards are carving a bigger niche than you might think. Whether you're into speed, mileage, or something a bit more stylish, here are the best electric skateboards on the market.
Emerging Tech

Hear the sounds of wind on Mars from InSight’s latest audio recording

NASA's InSight craft has captured the sound of the wind blowing on the surface of Mars. The audio file was picked up by the air pressure sensor and the seismometer which detected vibrations from the 10 to 15 mph winds in the area.
Features

Has Columbus, Ohio raised its IQ yet? A progress report from the mayor

Two years ago, the city of Columbus in Ohio received $40 million to pursue smart city initiatives. So, what’s happened since then? We spoke with its mayor, Andrew Ginther, to discuss progress and what’s ahead.