Have you ever thought about how cool it would be to watch your dreams as movies after you wake up? Or maybe have your thoughts turned into pictures? It sounds like something from Black Mirror, something that can’t possibly be real. However, turning your thoughts into images now actually exists!
Researchers at Radboud University in the Netherlands have developed a technology that turns your brainwaves into photographic images. And it does it with so much accuracy that it’s creepy and extremely impressive at the same time.
DW Science Unscripted published a great video about the project, which you can watch above. In the video, Gabriel and Connor of DW speak with Thirza Dado, one of the researchers on the project. She is an AI and neurocognitive scientist and a PhD candidate at Donders Institute for brain, cognition and behavior in Nijmegen, Netherlands. She talks about the idea and the technology behind the project, its possible applications, and shares some of the results that are pretty impressive.
The project becomes with a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan of the brain and its activity when it’s exposed to visual stimuli. In this case, volunteers were asked to look at particular photos of faces while their brains were scanned. Specifically, the part of their brain responsible for vision, where the scanner measured the neuron activity. Then, the researchers used this this information to feed it into a computer’s AI algorithm. This way they trained the AI to reconstruct visual images based on the neuron response it detected. And man, the results are impressive!
Dado and her team shared some of the results in the study published in Nature magazine. In the image below, you can see stimulus-reconstructions. “The three blocks show twelve arbitrarily chosen but representative test set examples,” the researchers write. “The first column displays the face stimuli whereas the second and third column display the corresponding reconstructions from brain activations from subject 1 and 2, respectively.”
As if this isn’t impressive enough, Dado believes that the scientists can train the algorithm to reconstruct a face you’re vividly imagining, not just the one you’re looking at. It can be the face of someone you know well, like your mom… But it could also be useful for the police when witnesses are describing suspects of a crime. And you know what? Even that “dream machine” I’ve always imagined could become reality! “By developing this technology, it would be fascinating to decode and recreate subjective experiences, perhaps even your dreams,” says Dado. How awesome is that?
As far as applications go for this technology, there are plenty of them. Other than helping the police with identifying suspects, this tech could help to communicate with patients in a coma by reading their brainwaves and translating them into images. Dado notes that it could also help people who have become blind through a disease or accident. By installing a brain-implant camera based on this technology, they could stimulate people’s brains to see again and navigate through space. And in Dado’s words, this implant is already being developed.