Patients in Jacksonville's Mayo Clinic campus have become the world's first cyborg spellers, conjuring computerized letters using nothing but the power of the mind using the power of the electrodes surgically implanted through their skull onto the very surface of their brains. Which makes any body piercings you have decidedly amateur hour.
The research is brilliant brainchild of neurologist Jerry Shih, MD, who said "Since these epilepsy patients we're studying already have wiring installed in their skulls to monitor seizures, why not give them mental command over computers?" He may be the only real-world benevolent super-power-providing super-scientist in the world.
This sort of research has happened before but only with Electroencephalograms (EEGs), where the sensors are slapped onto your head and it's hoped they can penetrate your thick skull. This work is testing Electrocorticography (ECoG) which benefits from direct metal-mind contact between electrodes and the surface of the brain. Beyond the clearer signals the techniques are the same - training the computer to recognise brain activity for certain thoughts, and then to respond to it. The two test subjects successfully selected letters on a computer screen and could therefore theoretically communicate with anyone in the world without lifting a finger.
The applications for prosthetic control or communication with paralyzed patients are obvious, but if anyone thinks this technology will remain medical they probably don't generate enough brain activity for it to detect. The instant we get man-machine interfaces working, truly working, it'll be a neurolinkage race against time for every major electronics manufacturer on the planet. Whether we'll be wearing Sony Skullmans or an iThink is up to them, and we don't care who works it out as long as it happens.
The team have demonstrated that the system works, though they haven't proven any superiority over the EEG approach yet - this was only a first trial. Should it prove significantly improved abilities in mind-machine interfaces, those looking to become more than mere man may have to make a major decision. "How far would you go?" becomes a lot more immediate when one of the choices is "Step into a surgery where the doctors have drills, point to your own head, and let them get on with it."