First look at mind-control technology


(Photo by Lindsay Purchase)

It’s not every day that you get to see the inner workings of the brain of Canada’s representative to the Queen.

But that’s exactly what happened yesterday at the Perimeter Institute (PI), as Governor General David Johnston had the opportunity to preview mind-control technology that will be featured, along with a series of exhibits, in PI’s upcoming BrainSTEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) Festival.

Johnston wore a helmet that reads the brain’s electrical impulses, measuring things like focus and meditative thinking, which were then projected onto a TV screen.

“The governor general is just such a good sport, to put on the mind control helmet and to focus and actually jump in and play and make the dials move using only his brainwaves; how awesome is that?” said Greg Dick, PI’s director for educational outreach.

Johnston contacted PI after he read an article about the upcoming events, hoping to play a part in promotion.

The festival, which is directed toward youth, aims to show the innovations that were made possible by scientific discovery.

Dick gave the example of a baseball cap that could alert long haul drivers when they are becoming fatigued.

It could also be used to evaluate the relationship between focus and progress in student learning using the technology “to really develop those correlations so that we know how to most appropriately engage the different learners’ minds.”

“The opportunities are really limitless and that’s what we want kids to see,” Dick continued.

While popularizing science and technology has been one of the main caveats of PI, Johnston admitted that he was initially unconvinced.

“I said, ‘that’s as dumb as a sack of hammers,’” he recalled.

“‘You’re going to have such a difficult time attracting really thoughtful, brainy people and to put this added burden on them …  it’s just too much.’”

“Well, thank heavens my voice was totally ignored.”

The outreach, he said, has been “transformative in Canada.”

The Governor General was also given a tour the building and taken to visit a class in the Perimeter Scholars Program, comprised of students from around the world.

“It’s pretty easy?” he joked to one student.

Tickets are free for the ‘Your Future is Now’ BrainSTEM Festival, which is happening between Sept. 30 and Oct. 6, but must be ordered in advance.

In addition to the mind-control display, interactive exhibits will include a responsive robot, an invisibility cloak and the possibilities of wireless electricity. Self-guided tours of the building will also be available.

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