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用意念操控游戏,你准备好了吗

更新时间:2017-8-29 21:45:10 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

A Game You Can Control With Your Mind
用意念操控游戏,你准备好了吗

SAN FRANCISCO — When you pull the headset over your eyes and the game begins, you are transported to a tiny room with white walls. Your task is to break out of the room, but you cannot use your hands. There is no joystick or game pad. You must use your thoughts.

旧金山——当你把头盔拉过眼睛,游戏开始时,你将被传送到一个有白色墙壁的小房间里。你的任务是逃出房间,但你不能使用手,也没有操纵杆或游戏手柄。你必须使用意念。

You turn toward a ball on the floor, and your brain sends a command to pick it up. With another thought, you send the ball crashing into a mirror, breaking the glass and revealing a few numbers scribbled on a wall. You mentally type those numbers into a large keypad by the door. And you are out.

你转向地板上的一个球,你的大脑发出一个捡起的命令。然后再通过意念,把球撞到一面镜子上,打破玻璃,露出墙上写着的数字。你靠意念将这些数字输入门旁边的一个大键盘。然后你就能出去了。

Designed by Neurable, a small startup founded by Ramses Alcaide, an electrical engineer and neuroscientist, the game offers what you might call a computer mouse for the mind, a way of selecting items in a virtual world with your thoughts.

设计这个游戏的是一家名叫Neurable的小型初创企业,它由电气工程师和神经科学家拉姆瑟·阿尔凯德(Ramses Alcaide)创办。这个游戏提供了一个“意念鼠标”,你可以用意念来选择虚拟世界中的物体。

Incorporating a headset with virtual reality goggles and sensors that can read your brain waves, this prototype is a few years from the market. And it is limited in what it can do. You cannot select an object with your mind unless you first look in its direction, narrowing the number of items you may be considering.

将虚拟现实眼镜和可以读取脑电波的传感器整合在头盔里,这种样机距离真正上市销售还有几年时间。它所能做的事情还相当有限。你必须先看向物体的方向,减少你可能正在考虑移动的物体的数量,否则你是无法靠意念选取对象的。

But it works. I recently played the game, which has the working title Awakening, when Alcaide and two Neurable employees passed through San Francisco, and a few hundred others tried it this month at the Siggraph computer graphics conference in Los Angeles.

但它是可行的。不久前阿尔凯德和两个员工来旧金山的时候,我玩过这个游戏,它的名字暂定为《觉醒》(Awakening),还有几百人本月在洛杉矶的Siggraph电脑图形会议上试玩过它。

The prototype is among the earliest fruits of a widespread effort to embrace technology that was once science fiction — and in some ways still is. Driven by recent investments from the U.S. government and by the herd mentality that so often characterizes the tech world, a number of startups and bigger companies like Facebook are working on ways to mentally control machines. They are also looking for smoother ways to use virtual reality technology.

业界正在做出广泛努力,拥抱那些曾经只存在于科幻小说中的技术,这个样机就是最早的成果之一。其实,从某些方面来说,相关技术现在也颇为科幻。而科技界常常有一种从众心态,在这种心态和美国政府近期投资的驱动下,很多初创公司以及诸如Facebook之类的巨头正在研究如何用意念控制机器。他们也在寻找更流畅地使用虚拟现实技术的方法。

“Neurotechnology has become cool,” said Ed Boyden, a professor of biological engineering and brain and cognitive sciences at the MIT Media Lab who advises one of those startups.

“神经科技已经变得很酷了,”MIT媒体实验室生物工程与大脑及认知科学教授艾德·波登(Ed Boyden)说。他就在为一家这样的初创公司提供咨询。

The increased interest in neurotechnology is partly a result of an effort the Obama administration started in 2013. The initiative helped create significant government financing for brain-interface companies and related work in academia. Then Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla and SpaceX, began promoting the idea and his latest company, Neuralink. That combination has attracted the interest of private venture capital firms.

对神经科技的兴趣增加,部分上是奥巴马政府在2013年开始的一个举措的结果。该举措帮助为人脑界面公司以及学术界的相关项目提供了大笔政府融资。然后,特斯拉和SpaceX的创始人埃隆·马斯克(Elon Musk)开始宣传这个点子以及他最新创办的公司Neuralink。这种组合吸引了私人风险投资公司的兴趣。

“With the smartphone, we’re starting to reach the limits of what we can do,” said Doug Clinton, the founder of Loup Ventures, a new venture capital firm that has invested in Neurable. “These companies are the next step.”

“在智能手机上,我们正在逐步逼近我们所能做的事情的极限。”Neurable的投资者之一Loup Ventures是一家新的风投公司,其创始人道格·克林顿(Doug Clinton)表示,“这些公司就是下一步。”

The Neurable prototype shows what is possible today. Using electroencephalography, or EEG — a means of measuring electrical brain activity that has been around for decades — the company can provide simple ways of mentally interacting with a game. Some companies hope to go much further and want to build ways of performing nearly any computing task with the mind. Imagine a brain interface for rapidly typing on a smartphone.

Neurable的样机展示了眼下可以做到的事情是什么。用脑电图(EEG)衡量大脑活动已有数十年的历史,该公司利用EEG提供了一种在游戏中进行脑波互动的简单方式。有些公司希望能够走得更远,想要找到方法,通过意念来构建几乎任何计算型任务。比如可以在智能手机上快速打字的大脑界面。

Even for Silicon Valley entrepreneurs like Musk, setting that goal pushes technological optimism to new heights. Some efforts seem particularly quixotic. Musk said in one interview that Neuralink planned to develop ways of implanting hardware in the skulls of completely healthy people.

即使是对于像马斯克这样的硅谷创业家,设定这个目标也是将科技乐观主义精神推向了新的高度。有一些项目似乎特别不切实际。马斯克在接受采访时表示,Neuralink计划开发出一种方法,将硬件植入健康人士的头骨。

At Neurable, which is based in Boston, Alcaide and the members of his team are pushing the limits of EEG headsets. Although sensors can read electrical brain activity from outside the skull, it is very difficult to separate the signal from the noise. Using computer algorithms based on research that Alcaide originally published as a doctoral student at the University of Michigan, Neurable works to read activity with a speed and accuracy that is not usually possible.

在位于波士顿的Neurable,阿尔凯德及其团队成员正在推动脑电头盔的极限。虽然传感器可以从头骨外部读取脑电活动,但是将信号与噪声分开很困难。阿尔凯德当初在密歇根大学读博士时曾开展过一些研究,在这个基础上得出的一个计算机算法,可以帮助Neurable以通常不太可能实现的速度和准确性开展读取活动。

The algorithms learn from your behavior. Before playing the game, you train them to recognize when you are focusing your attention on an object. A pulse of light bounces around the virtual room, and each time it hits a small colored ball in front of you, you think about the ball. At that moment, when you focus on the light and it stimulates your brain, the system reads the electrical spikes of your brain activity.

算法会学习你的行为。在玩这个游戏之前,你要训练它们识别你什么时候在把注意力集中在一个物体上。一道光束会在这个虚拟房间四周跳动,每当它碰到你面前的一个彩色小球时,你就去想这个球。此时,当你把注意力放在这束光上,光刺激你的大脑时,该系统便会读取你大脑活动的电子尖峰。

After you do this for a few minutes, the game learns to recognize when you are concentrating on an item. “We look at specific brain signals,” Alcaide said, “and once we understand them, we can use them.”

在你这样坚持几分钟后,游戏会学着识别你专注于某样东西的时刻。“我们会观察特定的脑信号,”阿尔凯德说,“一旦懂了,我们就能利用它们。”

When you play the game, the same light bounces around the virtual room. When it hits the item you are thinking about, the system can identify the increase in brain activity.

当你玩这个游戏时,同样的光会在虚拟房间里跳动。当它碰到你正好想到的东西时,该系统能够发现大脑活动的增强。

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