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Channelling your inner Eastwood: CES 2013 offers brain-wave technology

“It’s not quite Firefox – the movie, not the search engine – but companies are developing exciting mind-controlled gizmos

If you were a 10-year-old boy in 1982, the most exciting film of that year was not Tootsie, or Blade Runner, or even ET, but a rather ridiculous action thriller called Firefox, in which Clint Eastwood plays a US pilot who steals a fighter jet from the Soviets.

Not just any fighter – a super-duper prototype controlled by thought. A mere shimmer of a thought and you could turn left, turn right, fire, kapow! The notion appealed far more than cycling around with a bald alien in a basket.

Three decades later, CES 2013 gave me the chance to live the fantasy, sort of, courtesy of NeuroSky and PuzzleBox, two companies which are pioneering brain-wave technology.

“You just have to concentrate,” said Steve Castellotti, the founder of PuzzleBox, strapping a black band around my head. A sensor node rested on my forehead, a device clipped to my ear. Castellotti tapped on a computer. “Ready.”

I channelled my inner Eastwood – in a cockpit, braced for G-forces. A green light on the computer flashed. And hey presto, lift-off. A toy helicopter the size of a squirrel whirred upwards. Flying by thought!

The glory was intense, but fleeting. Seconds later the helicopter plunged – apparently I lost concentration – into Castellotti’s waiting hands.”

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