Would you want an electronic tattoo that could read your mind?

Controling objects with the power of your mind

Electronic tattoos that read your mind

There's a time in most of our lives when we surrender to an overwhelming need to be part of the zeitgeist and get a painful, nondescript, instantly regrettable tattoo. There's also a subsequent time when you have three fifths of a second to lie to your mum about what that 'Māori looking smudge' is on the back of your neck.

Now, thanks to researchers at the University of California, you'll have the completely believable response of 'it's a brain-reading, wireless, electronic temporary tattoo'.

You can direct your thanks to Associate Professor of Bioengineering at the University of California, Todd Coleman, the brain-reading genius behind this project.

Coined as a 'Brain Machine Interface', or BMI, the wireless, tattoo-like device has the ability to perform the functions of a normal brain implant, typically used to map brain signals, but it also has further, more exploratory possibilities of remote machine control and even telepathy.

So, assuming your mum is wearing one too, you'll be able to preempt any impending questions about other, ill-thought-out, tramp stamps.

Electronic tattoos that read your mind
Telepathy could soon become a reality

In recent years, rapid progression in brain implant research has allowed scientists to explore the notion of controlling machines with thoughts - and the results are astonishing.

For example, this uplifting video from the team behind Brain Gate - a small chip that's inserted into the brain that allows users to control computers and robotic limbs with their thoughts - shows the level of technological progression in this field and where we could be in 20 years' time.

However, as you can see from the Brain Gate video, brain implants are usually invasive and dangerous procedures that can be fatal if administered incorrectly.

Electronic tattoos that read your mind
The chips must be inserted extremely carefuly

Professor Coleman has developed a new technology to circumvent the danger of invasive brain implants by inventing a miniscule stick-on device that can read your brain signals and transmit them to a nearby computer wirelessly.

The barely visible BMIs consist of circuitry and register at less than 100 microns thick, which is thinner than a human hair. They are made from a rubber like translucent substance that can be molded to any shape and stuck to the forehead.

Electronic tattoos that read your mind
The super-thin device is stuck to the forehead

The BMIs work by reading electrical signals that are associated with brainwaves. They can also be upgraded to provide more in-depth analysis by including thermal sensors to monitor skin temperature and light detectors to analyse blood oxygen levels.

The device is powered by micro solar panels and uses antennae to wirelessly transmit or receive data.

Electonic tattoos that read your mind
The chips are powered by micro solar panels

In terms of immediate real-world application, Professor Coleman wants to use the device on premature babies to monitor their mental state and detect the onset of seizures that can lead to brain development problems such as epilepsy.

The BMI is currently being commercialised and prepared for shipping to hospitals and other research labs across the globe.

Achievement unlocked: Telepathy

Outside of sensible applications such as monitoring premature babies, the BMI has more tantalising mad scientist-esq potential applications such as robot control, telepathy and even telekinesis.

Professor Coleman and his team have been experimenting with electrodes to fly unmanned aircraft over fields in the US and he's currently working on scaling down that technology to fit into the BMI.

Although the use of thought to control robots isn't new - as demonstrated in the Brain Gate video earlier - the idea that it can be done with such ease presents new and exciting opportunities.

The BMI's ease of application (slapping it on someone's forehead) and mobility means that any device in your home or work with a wireless receiver could be controlled with a simple thought.