Biomedical Engineering Laboratory at Keio University in Japan recently
announced that researchers were able to control a Second Life avatar
using a brain-computer interface (BCI), bringing the possibility of
total immersion in the online virtual world one step closer.
attempts at creating such an interface involved hardwiring an interface
into the brain, in the form of an implant. But this procedure uses
external electrodes wired to an EEG (electroencephalogram) as a way of
receiving and interpreting commands. But it's not as simple as
strapping on a helmet and running amok in Linden Land. The interface,
which reads electric signals in the brain, must be "trained" to
understand what specific electrical impulses and patterns trigger
specific actions in the real world. Once this learning process is
complete, a user can then exercise simple control over an avatar in the
virtual world by imagining what they would like it to do.
is still crude but this is partly due to limitations in the way that
Second Life renders motion (as pre-scripted animations based on the
movements of human models recorded via motion capture). Another
limiting factor is the current control mechanism for Second Life
avatars: keyboard and mouse input, which cannot possibly trigger the
full range of human movement, as the interface works by converting
brain impulses the Second Life keyboard commands rather than directly
controlling the avatar.
technology has many potential applications in the real world as well,
such as remotely controlling robots in situations that are dangerous or
too difficult for humans, and triggering devices that enable the
handicapped to perform otherwise impossible tasks or to communicate
Perhaps one day a BCI will enable me to play the solo to Stairway to Heaven on my air-Gibson Les Paul.
Posted by Christos Tsirbas.