British Columbia

Vancouver thought-power lights up Ontario

People are using the power of their thoughts to light up landmark locations thousands of kilometres away, thanks to a technology being demonstrated at Ontario's Olympic pavilion in Vancouver.

People are using the power of their thoughts to light up landmark locations thousands of kilometres away, thanks to a technology being demonstrated at Ontario's Olympic pavilion in Vancouver.

In what developers say is the world's largest thought-controlled computing installation, participants are changing the colours of the nighttime lighting displays shining on Niagara Falls, the parliament buildings in Ottawa and the CN Tower in Toronto.

Pavilion visitors can volunteer to sit in comfortable chairs, wear a headset, then think about a colour.

The headsets measure the brain's electrical output and send out waves that are picked up by a computer linked in real time to the displays lighting the three locations in Ontario.

The interactive technology was developed by Toronto-based InteraXon.

"Our brains are electric organs," said InteraXon CEO Trevor Coleman. "So they give a signal and we can read that. The same way we use an antenna to tune in a radio station, we can tune in brain stations."

Profound potential applications

Pavilion visitor Rem Dhami, of North Delta, B.C., gave it a try and said she started to get the knack after using the device for a few minutes.

"Any loss of focus and it was gone," she said. "So holding your focus was the hardest part."

Directly changing light colours thousands of kilometers away by using one's thoughts might be astounding, but the technology can be applied to more than entertainment, said Coleman.     

"In laboratories, there are thought-controlled wheelchairs people are navigating [around] obstacles just by thinking," he said.

"There is someone who sent a Twitter message through brainwaves. That may sound frivolous, but to someone who lost the power of speech that can be life-changing."

The display will be active at Ontario House, at 50 Pacific Blvd., between Science World and GM Place, until Feb. 28.