By Chris Capps 9/23/11
The idea of a machine that can read our minds and then reconstruct the images seen based on brainwaves is something scientists have been doing a lot in recent days. But the research, while potentially groundbreaking, has come up with some fairly eerie results. And one of the strangest elements is the fact that some times the mind is seeing something that the machine recognizes as completely different. If looking into the human mind looks like this, it may be questionable to some researchers whether we want to proceed – although the enigmas it leaves behind will certainly be enough to drive researchers forward.
The images displayed in motion of what the human mind sees when watching Youtube videos suggests we all have marginally different images in our minds than what is displayed on screen.
For instance, an image of comedy actor Steve Martin with a faux moustache on appears as a red figure on a white background, but there's another figure that can vaguely be seen in the background that doesn't quite match up with the images themselves. Text displaying the words "All Bets are Off" on a white background show a blue background with sparkling but ultimately illegible text. And another image of the aforementioned actor and Saturday Night Live comic produces an image of a faceless man of a different build than Martin wearing a clearly defined short sleeved shirt and with short brown hair.
But we don't get into the truly disturbing until we look at footage of an elephant walking in the desert – which is transmuted into a strange collection of chaotic shapes that look more akin to something HP Lovecraft would write about than something seen on National Geographic. And an image of a parrot soaring through the air appeared as a similarly shaped humanoid figure devoid of features standing in front of a stained background. Finally footage of a woman putting on a stethoscope to hear her own heartbeat appeared as a series of several faces, the last of which looked like a man whose face was rapidly transforming.
Perhaps the most interesting clip is the part of a plane landing which produced a very clear Fox News logo in the upper left hand corner despite this not appearing in the original footage. Naturally some of this can be attributed to noise from the machine or the mapping software being unable to find an appropriate match, but these anomalies are disturbing enough to be worth a double take.
Where will the technology take us in the future? At the moment the project, from UC Berkeley, is one of several hoping to unlock what our mind sees. And eventually we may learn far more about ourselves as a result of this and other technology like it.