A man uses an EEG brain-scanning apparatus to control the paddles of a pinball machine at the Berlin Brain-Computer Interface research consortium stand at the CeBIT Technology Fair in Hannover, Germany. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

If you thought mind-reading was impossible, think again. Recent discoveries by the University of Minnesota show that it is within reach.

The Economist reports that Prof. Bin He and his colleagues were able to give test subjects the ability to control a digital helicopter through a virtual, three-dimensional space using the power of thought. The brain control was registered using electrodes attached to the subjects’ scalps. The discovery was originally published in the Public Library of Science.

The discovery holds incredible promise, as described in the Economist:

“That is interesting and useful. Mind-reading of this sort will allow the disabled to lead more normal lives, and the able-bodied to extend their range of possibilities still further. But there is another kind of mind-reading, too: determining, by scanning the brain, what someone is actually thinking about. This sort of mind-reading is less advanced than the machine-controlling type, but it is coming, as three recently published papers make clear. One is an attempt to study dreaming. A second can reconstruct a moving image of what an observer is looking at. And a third can tell what someone is thinking about.”

Although using the mind to control digital devices is not new, the implications are significant for a variety of communities.

In 2008, a team on the Discovery television show “Prototype This” created a car to be controlled using a biofeedback loop. The control of the vehicle, however, was limited to gear function, although it did accommodate for emotional state, placing the car in neutral if the subject became agitated.

(The Economist)

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