back to article Boffin snatches control of colleague's body with remote control brain hat

In an announcement that's going to be a boon to the tin-foil haberdashery business, scientists at the University of Washington (UW) have successfully built a non-invasive system to remotely control the actions of humans. Brain to Brain communications at the University of Washington Mind control from the Ministry of Silly …


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  1. Don Jefe


    I'm not clear on the involuntary participation bit. Will it not work due to the strength of someones will to resist or because it is difficult to keep the hat on them?

    1. Wzrd1 Silver badge

      Re: Participation

      Pretty much the hat. Magnetic fields lose strength to the inverse square of the distance. In short, the strength of signal drops dramatically the farther away one is from the electromagnet.

      In theory, one could build a unit to send a precise signal across the room to do the same thing, but every compass in the country would point to the facility. ;)

      Not to mention rattling rebar in concrete walls...

  2. heyrick Silver badge

    The Laughing Man

    I thought what I'd do was, I'd pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes.

    1. James 51

      Re: The Laughing Man

      or would I?

  3. jlb

    Boffins! .. Boffins! I despise that word. It's demeaning.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Boffin is "Demeaning", jlb? Why?

      I have t-shirts that reference boffin. My coffee cup reads "Boffin at Large" on one side, and has a large familiar blue oval trademark on the other. Most of my race cars have had a 22"X10" stencil that reads "DANGER! Boffins at work!" for the last thirty years. I tried to get the CA State license plate "BOFFIN", but somebody already bagged it ... See:

      And I'm a bloody yank!

    2. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      jlb, are you jealous? It's certainly not demeaning to boffins.

    3. Graham Marsden


      Boffin is certainly not demeaning, it's a term of respect and endearment for those clever "Back-room Boys" who come up with wonderful inventions like Radar, the Bouncing Bomb and other such things which are of use to those who actually need them.

      People like Barnes Wallis or even Q from the Bond Films are archetypal Boffins and they would be honoured to be described as such!

      (Boffin icon!)

    4. Wzrd1 Silver badge

      Beats what a US military officer called his consultants, "ninety pound brains".

      Really gives one great respect for the intellectual integrity of the US military commissioned officer corps.

  4. Thorne

    The uses are endless

    Ugly people renting a hot body for the night so they can get laid.

    Skilled technician using a paedophile for nuclear reactor repairs.

    Rent a local for your Paris holiday.

    NSA bugging people's heads......

    1. tony2heads
      Paris Hilton

      Re: The uses are endless

      Rent a Paris for my holiday!

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        "Rent a Paris for my holiday!"

        Not sure about the real one, but I'm sure you could find a lookie likie who would do most things you want for cash without needing any special technology.

        Probably not a legal transaction in many places you would want to go to for a holiday, though.

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon

          Re: "Rent a Paris for my holiday!"

          "Rent a local for your Paris holiday."

          There are a series of books that cover just this possibilty.

          See Kirlian Quest etc.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is a bit like programming a relay to trigger when it gets a signal, taping it to your car's throttle, and claiming you're remote controlling a car. No. The researchers 'hard-coded' a single, specific interface; they could have just as easily triggered it with some JavaScript code but that wouldn't have meant they mind-melded with bloody Facebook.

    The research itself is interesting, but as is often the case the way it's being presented is beyond any semblance of proportion....

    1. Gordon 10
      Thumb Down

      I think you're extrapolating from too little information. As long as the coil is firing on reciept of a specific signal and the coil is capable of firing to other areas too there is no functional difference in the end result. All thats left is to build a translation map between transmitted "thought" and resulting stimulus and many many movements could be transmitted and recieved. Once that stage is complete then the next stage would be to replace the map with complex heuristics.

      I think you undervaluing what is just a first baby step.

    2. Wzrd1 Silver badge

      "This is a bit like programming a relay to trigger when it gets a signal, taping it to your car's throttle, and claiming you're remote controlling a car. "

      Actually, pretty close. They're examining a mapped signal from one brain, then creating a trigger in the recipients brain.

      It's a bit more remote control than altering respiratory patterns with deep brain stimulation, only barely. The latter being in common practice in research for decades.

    3. Peter Mc Aulay

      Triggering a radio relay taped to your car's throttle /is/ in fact remote controlling it, Mr Killjoy.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        It's remote controlling the *throttle*, not the *car*. Put it this way: If you're driving while juggling bowling pins, and crash, the judge is going to take a dim view of your assertion that you were too "controlling" the car because your foot was on the loud pedal.

        'Controlling' is different from 'somehow altering the state of', in short. The ambiguity of the term is used deliberately on the part of the press to make the feat look more impressive than it is - which is precisely what bugs me.

        As I said, that doesn't mean the research itself isn't useful. But this has as much to do with most of the frenzied talk of mind control and body rental as that throttle solenoid does with the Martian rovers.

  6. Sureo

    Actually wouldn't brain to brain interface via mouth (speech) and ear be simpler and more effective?

    1. Thorne

      More effective but less cool.....

      1. CoffeeFueled


        I'm just thinking of the use of this for tech support, an area where mouth to ear brain interface can often be sadly lacking.

        "Okay, so you've got an error message. Please put on your brain hat and be ready for a remote interface. I'll just need to access your visual cortex and motor functions. You may feel a slight tingle."

        1. novice

          Re: Actually...

          Definitely - so much easier to say "never mind if you don't know what application you are trying to use or know what an icon to click on means - just plug yourself in and let's see what's in there!"

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Actually...

          > I'm just thinking of the use of this for tech support

          Me too; this would allow us to punch people over the internet.

      2. Scroticus Canis

        re: More effective but less cool.....

        Retro is the new cool - they can send morse code to each other.... rather than talk or video chat.

    2. Don Jefe


      "OK Google Now: Have my assistant get some beers from the fridge."

      Personally, if I'm going to have to talk to it, I would prefer just telling the Human what to do via traditional means: Simply talking to it...

    3. Gordon 10

      More effective for pick that cup or click that mouse maybe. What about when its extrapolated to the nth degree and it involves a trainee surgeon cutting 3mm into a patient being guided an experienced Senior miles away?

  7. Bill Posters


    I for one, welcome our DRINK COKE new 'benign guardians' EAT AT JOE'S who will keep watch over us BUY BOOSTER PILLS at night.

  8. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Stealthy Instruction Sets are Intelligence Challenging, Hiding Transparently in Full Sight

    "I think some people will be unnerved by this because they will overestimate the technology," she said. "There's no possible way the technology that we have could be used on a person unknowingly or without their willing participation."

    <:-)> Poe's Law invoked here …… The Stealthy Secrets Intelligence Sector Service would advise one to not misunderestimate the technologies and methodologies that are being used and abused on persons unknowingly and without their willing participation.

    Such renders to leading proponents, Blissful Command with Unprecedented Anonymous Remote Control Guarantees that deliver the Future Supply of Internetworking Concurrent Active IT for a Para-Virtual Realisation and Semi-Autonomous Self Actualisation of Newsworthy Events, with immunity and impunity.

    For some is that a type of NEUKlearer HyperRadioProActive IT for Creative Cyberspace Command and Control and Commanding Computer Control of Communications and a Global Operating Devices Send for Virtual Machinery.

    And I have absolutely nothing further to add to this tale ..... .... other than "Whoever would have thunk it, and you aint seen nothing yet. " </ :-)>

  9. Mr C

    The trigger finger experiment

    "..mentally moved a finger to fire a cannon in a video game.."

    Curious experiment.

    I can certainly understand how important this technology could one day become, potentially.

    But its weird that they chose to remote-control a trigger-finger for their 1st experiment..

    I mean, of all the good uses this can be put to, it had to be tested as trigger-finger for a cannon?

    Curious to see what the history books will write about this and how that will reflect on us.

    1. James 51

      Re: The trigger finger experiment

      No more worries about the minute men pushing the button.

    2. Don Jefe

      Re: The trigger finger experiment

      First they came for the trigger finger and I did nothing, because I wasn't using it.

      That's how the first paragraph in the history books will start. I'm assuming you know how it ends.

      1. Richard Pennington 1
        Black Helicopters

        Re: The trigger finger experiment

        And who controls what is typed in the history books?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The trigger finger experiment

          The guy with the sending hat, apparently.

  10. Chris G

    At last!

    Just what I have always wanted BrainBook! Zuck are you listening?

    I will be able to make everybody like me!

  11. KpH01

    When they can place this hat on a locked-in person with a cervical level spinal injury and have that person move another person's fingers to change the channel on the TV, then it is going to get really interesting. Hope it is headed that way.

  12. Crisp

    The next step is two-way conversation directly between the two brains.

    This is both slightly disturbing and freaking awesome at the same time.

    I wonder what happens to "Me" when I hook my brain up to someone else's.

  13. wowfood


    "There's no possible way the technology that we have could be used on a person unknowingly or without their willing participation."


    *puts on tinfoil hat*

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Meanwhile, in a secret underground lair next to an active volcano somewhere . . .

  14. Tony Haines

    Rat control the cook!

    Looks to me like the one on the right in the picture is being controlled by a rat.

  15. Snow Hill Island

    ssh person@kitchen

    sudo make me a sandwich

    1. Marcelo Rodrigues

      Re: ssh person@kitchen

      sudo make me a sandwich

      error: could not find "". Missing dependency.

    2. A K Stiles

      Re: ssh person@kitchen

      obligatory xkcd reference?

  16. Super Happy
    Thumb Up

    I had a friend in college who was a paraplegic following an accident. This kind of research is awesome and could really help such unfortunate people. Keep up the good work.

    1. Alan Esworthy

      While I certainly hope so, it's not clear how this work will apply. Your unfortunate friend's brain cannot control some muscles. Somebody else's brain telling your friend's brain to move those muscles isn't bypassing the problem.

      1. Brutus

        Actually, the friend's brain will still be sending the signals, it's just that there is a cable break preventing the signal from reaching the muscle. This tech could prove very interesting for those with loss of muscle function, particularly if they can set up the feedback function, too.

  17. Dr Nik

    Final proof of what lecturers have known for years

    Just think of the advantages! I no longer need to tell students which buttons to hit to solve their programming problems! As I think about the buttons their hands automatically fly over the keyboard and fix it! At last, we will have proven scientifically that it is possible for stuff to go from a lecturer's mind to a student's piece of work without the student having to think about it in the process.

  18. Anonymous Coward
  19. Fr. Ted Crilly Silver badge


    Ghost hacked humans are so pathetic....

  20. Flywheel

    The Pr0n industry will love this!

  21. Graham Marsden

    Help me out here...!

    I was going to cite a sci-fi story as Prior Art, but I can't remember the name of it (or even who wrote it, but it might have been Philip K Dick or Roger Zelazny) and I've not found it by searching :-(

    IIRC it concerns someone who has lost an arm and had a cybernetic replacement, however suffers what would later be described in the Cyberpunk RPG as "Humanity Loss". He tries to get the surgeons to replace the rest of his body but they refuse, so he locks himself in a room with a computerised surgical device intending to carry out the procedure on himself.

    The scientists stop him by hooking a lab tech up to a device which remotely controls the arm to punch himself on the chin (decapitating him!) and the arm is then connected to a Doctor who ends by saying something like "What miracles I shall perform..."

    So can anyone remind me what the story is and who wrote it?


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