Science has found a way to record your dreams. A staple of the sci-fi genre for decades, this fantasy is about to become reality.
It’s happening at UC Berkeley where they’ve developed a system to capture, decode, and reconstruct visual experiences happening inside the human brain. The technology is still in early stages but the scientist there seem pretty confident that they’ll soon be able to use this to capture and record dreams. UC Berkeley neuroscientist Jack Gallant explains it this way: “this is a major leap toward reconstructing internal imagery. We are opening a window into the movies in our minds”
There’s a lot of talk in their announcement in which they try to justify the scientific leap by saying they could use it to help people who can’t communicate verbally, but I suspect they have much more interesting and lofty goals and they’re just saying that to make the anti-science crowd look bad, should anyone find some reason to come out against what they’re doing. Don’t worry guys, this is awesome.
So here’s exactly how they did it:
They watched two separate sets of Hollywood movie trailers, while fMRI was used to measure blood flow through the visual cortex, the part of the brain that processes visual information. On the computer, the brain was divided into small, three-dimensional cubes known as volumetric pixels, or “voxels.”
“We built a model for each voxel that describes how shape and motion information in the movie is mapped into brain activity,” Nishimoto said.
The brain activity recorded while subjects viewed the first set of clips was fed into a computer program that learned, second by second, to associate visual patterns in the movie with the corresponding brain activity.
Brain activity evoked by the second set of clips was used to test the movie reconstruction algorithm. This was done by feeding 18 million seconds of random YouTube videos into the computer program so that it could predict the brain activity that each film clip would most likely evoke in each subject.
Finally, the 100 clips that the computer program decided were most similar to the clip that the subject had probably seen were merged to produce a blurry yet continuous reconstruction of the original movie.
Start saving up to have your brain waves transferred into the robot body of your choice, right now. That application of this technology is probably still a long way off, but robot bodies are going to be pricey, you’ll need all that extra time to save.