Chinese technology demonstrates how metasurfaces can be used to control materials and send messages from a distance with the mind.
An ancient human desire is to establish a symbiosis between machine and brain to enhance their capabilities. Either to get people with paralysis or neurodegenerative diseases to recover their mobility. Or through an implant copy and paste our brain on a chip or, the connection between our mind and computers can have the most diverse uses, including military.
Recent research by Chinese scientists has made it possible to control materials with the mind and send messages between two people just by thinking. This has not pleased Washington, which has already begun to veto Chinese companies for participating in the development of “mind control weapons.”
These materials can interact with electromagnetic waves, and thus manage to adapt their properties and change their state. Both discoveries are based on non-invasive technologies and the possibilities offered by metamaterials, artificial compounds with unusual properties that have been known since the beginning of the 20th century. The development of this technology, put into practice, will allow, for example, the construction of more efficient solar cells, the creation of invisibility cloaks or the possibility of reducing the size and improving the resolution of virtual and augmented reality glasses such as that prepares Apple.
metasurfaces are the 2D version of metamaterials, very thin sheets of just a few microns thick made with nanostructures, with which all kinds of electromagnetic radiation can be controlled. These ultra-thin layers will allow us to interact with radio waves through brain waves, applied to a brain-machine interface, something that could have applications such as health monitoring or even mind control of military radars. Professor Wang Jiafu, who is one of the project’s lead scientists at the Air Force Engineering University, says, “Our design offers users a universal way to manipulate electromagnetic waves using brain waves.”
Wang’s team was inspired by programmable metasurfaces, capable of generating or manipulating radio waves. But it went a step further, because most of these materials need to be connected by cable to users, are manually controlled and do not act in real time. Instead, Wang and his assistants propose a new concept, that of remote mind-controlled metasurface (RMCM) using brain waves.
Transmitted wirelessly with the help of electrodes and a Bluetooth connection, this approach enables metasurfaces to be controlled through thought, “If we can collect brainwaves and use them as metasurface control signals, not only can we allow users to control them with your mind, but we will also be able to improve their response rate. Wang says in the article, “This will be a big step towards truly intelligent metasurfaces.”
But he did not stay in theory, but instead manufactured a prototype of RMCM to carry out his ambitious experiment. To do this, he built and connected several devices: a metasurface control module, a brainwave extraction module, a Bluetooth wireless transmission module, a DC power supply, and a single-chip microcomputer.
What he achieved was not to move objects with the Force like the Jedi in Star Wars or crumple a can of Coca-Cola like Eleven in Stranger Things, but to measure the attention of the person to whom the electrodes were placed. She was a volunteer, sitting in an anechoic chamber designed to block sound and electromagnetic waves from the environment. Asking him to close his eyes and go through different states of concentration, the team was able to establish a clear correspondence between the intensity of his attention and the changing properties of the material.
Put into practice, it is an advance that would allow, for example, a wireless driver concentration meter to be installed in cars, which warns when whoever is holding the wheel gets lost. It also opens up other potential applications in health monitoring, 5G and 6G communications, and smart sensors. Using the Force is going to have to wait, at least for now.
A team from the Electromagnetic Space Institute of Southeast China University also used metasurfaces, but in this case to serve as ‘intermediaries’ when sending and receiving messages between two people through the mind.
This research study succeeded in relating the P300 brainwave signal to the properties of a metasurface. They had two volunteers, who acted as sender and receiver to put it into practice. An electroencephalogram was applied to the first to monitor his brain waves in real time, with special attention to the P300 signal. Those electrical impulses were converted into binary code, used to control the properties of the emitter’s metasurface. Each change in the signal wirelessly modified the receiver’s metasurface, decoded it, and translated it into readable text.
This connection managed to successfully transmit four textual sequences: “hello world”, “hello Sue”, “hello Scut”, and “BCI metasurface”. The process is not exactly fast: it took an average of 5 seconds for each letter, something that can be improved in the future with some “fast spelling paradigms”, as revealed by the team in their study.
This technology suggests that the first practical applications suggested have to do with helping the disabled and patients with pathologies such as ALS, who could communicate simply by thinking words and ‘writing’ them thanks to metasurfaces.
“Combined with intelligent algorithms such as machine learning and custom designs for different users will further improve the accuracy of equipment in the future, it may open a new direction towards advanced metasurface biointelligent systems,” the paper’s authors note.
The Asian country seems determined to be the first to take advantage of the advantages that this offers, also in the space and military sectors. This is not the only Chinese research looking for new ways for the brain and technology to interact.
A team of Chinese researchers conducted an experiment in March with a device placed on the heads of several astronauts, which allowed them to control robotic equipment through brain waves. The objective is to be able to use, among other tools, the giant arm of the Tiangong Space Station, which to date is controlled with a joystick and a keyboard.
These range between 40 and 80%, figures well below the standards required in space, where any mistake can be fatal. The great novelty of this new brain-machine interface is that it achieves an accuracy of 99%, much higher than the tests carried out to date.
The probability of military use of this technology is also of concern in the West. In fact, earlier this year the US Department of Commerce blacklisted 12 Chinese institutes and companies for participating in the development of “mind control weapons,” according to the Washington Times.
China’s new-generation mind control weapons would be used, unlike traditional weapons that inflict physical damage on the enemy’s body, seek to “paralyze and control the opponent” and “attack the enemy’s will to resist.” Nothing we haven’t seen Darth Vader and company do in fiction. Posted by Iraic.info, a news and information agency.