The Weekly Geek: A real life dream machine


One of the coolest geeky fantasy machines in the world is surely the concept of a “dream machine,” a device that can record your dreams so you can show them to others. Just imagine all the amazing possibilities (both incredible and insanely embarrassing).

Well, this is completely crazy, but the technology for this idea is actually becoming possible. According to a Gizmodo post

From Gizmodo:

…according to Professor Jack Gallant — UC Berkeley neuroscientist and coauthor of the research published today in the journal Current Biology — “this is a major leap toward reconstructing internal imagery. We are opening a window into the movies in our minds.”

Holy. Crap. The science behind this is completely mind-blowing as well:

They used three different subjects for the experiments … the subjects were exposed to two different groups of Hollywood movie trailers as the fMRI system recorded the brain’s blood flow through their brains’ visual cortex.

The readings were fed into a computer program in which they were divided into three-dimensional pixels units called voxels (volumetric pixels). This process effectively decodes the brain signals generated by moving pictures, connecting the shape and motion information from the movies to specific brain actions. As the sessions progressed, the computer learned more and more about how the visual activity presented on the screen corresponded to the brain activity.

After recording this information, another group of clips was used to reconstruct the videos shown to the subjects. The computer analyzed 18 million seconds of random YouTube video, building a database of potential brain activity for each clip. From all these videos, the software picked the one hundred clips that caused a brain activity more similar to the ones the subject watched, combining them into one final movie. Although the resulting video is low resolution and blurry, it clearly matched the actual clips watched by the subjects.”

No way. I actually went and made sure the post wasn’t dated April 1. Sure enough, the sources check out — we’re actually at that point in neuroscience. Granted, this is early research, and an actual “dream machine” is a long, long way off, but this is fascinating any way you slice it.

It’s also potentially horrifying. Imagine how something like this could be used in an evil dystopian government, spying on its citizens’ thoughts. Or simply embarrassing! Remember that dream you had about your high school English teacher, a parakeet and a sauna? Yeah, that might not be so private anymore either.

We’re getting ahead of ourselves. For now, we salute the mad scientists at Berkeley who are making this happen.

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