Staring at a small white ball on the floor and wearing a black, plastic headset, Quartz’s David Yanofsky is trying to summon the Force. Just a few moments earlier, he imagined himself as a tiny person, physically pushing the ball forward. The headset, which can detect Electroencephalogram (EEG) waves, registered that original thought, and now as he thinks the thought again, the ball quickly tumbles away, as you can see in the video above.
The headset is made by Emotiv, a San Francisco-based startup that is trying to change the way we interact with the world around us. Tan Le, the company’s founder and CEO, imagines a world where devices like these headsets are everywhere, perhaps in a hat or a headband, and that one day, we may turn on the lights, change the channel on the TV or summon the newest episode of Stranger Things all by using our thoughts.
But as you can see in the video, while the company’s technology looks promising, it’s a far cry from using the Force from Star Wars.
Emotiv is not alone. Several start-up companies in Silicon Valley and other big names in tech are experimenting in this space. Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and the entrepreneur Brian Johnson are all developing systems that they hope will allow us to drive cars, fly drones or even type with our minds. Many of the claims that have been made so far about how well the technology works are overblown. Still, there is clear potential for harnessing the power of human thought.