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The Science Behind the “Drift” in “Pacific Rim”

pacrimshift2So, yesterday, we saw the new featurette from the upcoming movie Pacific Rim in which the “drift” in the movie is explained — two pilots merge their minds to control the Jaegers. You can see that by clicking here. And after we posted that, we were alerted to this article from Science Omega about research at the University of Essex along with NASA’s JPL Robotics, BCI and Secure Adaptive Systems (RoBoSAS) project that’s aimed at allowing two people to control a virtual spacecraft using their brain power.

Science imitates art? Or did art imitate science?

The Brain-Computer Interface technology is using electroencephalography to develop a system in which two pilots wear caps that monitor brain signals while focusing their attention on one of eight directional dots. Professor Riccardo Poli said, “With two or more people, however, if one has a lapse of concentration, nothing really bad happens provided the other or others do not have a concentration lapse at the same time…. By combining the signals from two people, the true signals from their brains are amplified because they are correlated, while the uncorrelated noise (from other muscular activity, from swallowing, breathing, and even eye blinks) is reduced. This provides much cleaner signals for the complex machinery that is required to turn brain waves into control commands for the simulator.” And if the two pilots give inconsistent directions? The spacecraft moves diagonally.

So we’re early in this game. Poli admits that “(a) person with a joystick can do much better than one person with a BCI” but adds that “if you add enough brains there is a point where the person using a keyboard is outperformed both in terms of accuracy and, crucially, in terms of decision-making speed.”

But, yeah, that two-brains-are-better-than-one thing in Pacific Rim? It’s a thing in real life, too. In other words, IT COULD HAPPEN. Keep an eye out for Jaegers stomping around your neighborhood soon. Okay, not soon, but if massive robots controlled by two people’s brains at once show up at your door, don’t say you weren’t warned.

HT: Science Omega

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