Moving stuff with your mind? That superpower may finally be here

Yeah, you read that right.
Loukia Papadopoulos

It's the stuff of pure fiction: moving things with your mind. But what if it was actually possible?

Now, Chinese scientists are working on making this concept a reality using something called metamaterials, according to a report by SciTechDaily published Sunday.

Past experiments

Back in 2019, we had reported on CTRL-labs that made telekinesis possible in a virtual environment. The CTRL-kit makes it possible to use one’s hands to pick up and control the speed of objects in a 3D space. The process empowered people to interact with virtual environments the way we naturally interact with the real world. 

Meanwhile, in 2021, the University of Miami proposed a means of connecting human brains to computer interfaces not via Neuralink-like computer chips and wires but with nanoparticles directly interacting with human neurons in order to develop mind-control technologies. However, as of yet, none of these efforts have produced any significant results.

Now, a new development in telekinesis has been achieved in real-life by a team of scientists led by Professor Shaobo Qu and Professor Jiafu Wang from Air Force Engineering University and Professor Cheng-Wei Qiu from the National University of Singapore. The work has been documented in a paper titled “Remotely Mind-controlled Metasurface via Brainwaves," which proposes a framework for moving objects with the human mind.

It has long been known that human brains generate brainwaves in the process of thinking. The researchers, therefore, theorized that collecting these brainwaves and using them as the control signals of metasurfaces would allow the users to control metasurfaces with their minds. Achieving this would mark an enormous step forward in creating truly intelligent metasurfaces that can be manipulated through telekinesis.

Using Bluetooth

How did the team make this major breakthrough? Through the use of Bluetooth.

The researchers managed to manipulate brainwaves wirelessly from the user to the controller via Bluetooth. The ultimate goal was to use the test subject’s brainwaves to control the electromagnetic waves' response to programmable metasurfaces. Ultimately, they found that the user could indeed effectively control the scattering pattern.

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Further investigation indicated that the user’s brainwaves directly controlled the outcome and provided better control and switch rate, making their model far more advanced than any existing product currently on the market. However, work still needs to be done to optimize the process.

For instance, their design can be further tweaked to improve the accuracy of their equipment, and the researchers are now aiming to combine this new model with intelligent algorithms to make it more efficient and accurate. Applications of the technology can include but are not limited to 5G/6G communications, the health sector, and smart sensors.

Questions arise from these types of experimentation, however. Like, how safe are they really, and what side effects would they produce? In the end, it all comes down to what price people are willing to pay in order to have the superpower of telekinesis.

The study was published in the journal eLight.

Study abstract:

The power of controlling objects with mind has captivated a popular fascination to human beings. One possible path is to employ brain signal collecting technologies together with emerging programmable metasurfaces (PM), whose functions or operating modes can be switched or customized via on-site programming or pre-defined software. Nevertheless, most of existing PMs are wire-connected to users, manually-controlled and not real-time. Here, we propose the concept of remotely mind-controlled metasurface (RMCM) via brainwaves. Rather than DC voltage from power supply or AC voltages from signal generators, the metasurface is controlled by brainwaves collected in real time and transmitted wirelessly from the user. As an example, we demonstrated a RMCM whose scattering pattern can be altered dynamically according to the user’s brain waves via Bluetooth. The attention intensity information is extracted as the control signal and a mapping between attention intensity and scattering pattern of the metasurface is established. With such a framework, we experimentally demonstrated and verified a prototype of such metasurface system which can be remotely controlled by the user to modify its scattering pattern. This work paves a new way to intelligent metasurfaces and may find applications in health monitoring, 5G/6G communications, smart sensors, etc.