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Toys -- and More -- for the 21st Century Make Use of Mind Control Over Matter

The Washington Post's Joel Garreau takes a look at an upcoming Star Wars-themed toy that uses new technology to allow the user to levitate an object...with their mind. Video by Akira Hakuta/

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Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

-- Arthur C. Clarke

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The question everyone has about these gizmos is whether they are parlor tricks like Magic 8 Balls or Ouija boards. Even Geoff Walker, a senior vice president at Mattel, acknowledges that users "spend the first 20 minutes stunned that it actually works."

Evidence in favor of them being for real is that some people are worse than others at controlling them -- certainly not a marketing feature.

Lawyers and other multitaskers, for example, tend to have a terrible time focusing their brain waves, says Johnny Liu of NeuroSky, the creator of the mind-over-matter headset. But there are those to whom controlling the device comes effortlessly and instantly, as if single-mindedness is the person's natural default position. Copy editors and IT jockeys on whom we tested this, you know who you are.

What happens when millions of youngsters in a notoriously ADHD generation start getting programmed by these new toys? What happens when they start being rewarded for very long periods of intense concentration? Nobody in the toy industry seems to know.

But it sure looks like parents are about to find out.

The Monkey's Mind

Now let's get serious with these toys, with the idea of telekinesis. A lot of scientists are. Nine years ago, they created the world's first telekinetic monkey. That would be Belle, a cute little owl monkey in the lab of Miguel Nicolelis at Duke University. She was the first to actually control tangible objects, long distance, with her thoughts.

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