2ch looks like something ripped out of a low budget sci-fi show. Featured recently on Prosthetic Knowledge, it’s a pyramid filled with hoses, motors, and screens, and it moans a language no one can possibly speak. But this art project has a greater purpose: Whereas most computer interfaces–like your mouse and keyboard–are designed to connect your brain to a machine, 2ch is meant to be “something like a brain-to-brain interface,” artist Dmitry Morozov says.
In 2ch, the machine is not the end point for your thoughts, but the mediator to another person.
Maybe that sounds a lot like existing technologies–the telephone comes to mind! But what’s different about 2ch is that the machine uses an EEG reader–a skull-worn sensor that can measure the electricity in your brain–to measure your brainwaves, essentially reading your thoughts directly. Then two users can both wear headsets to connect to the machine at once, each trying to coax their half of the machine into working in tandem with the other, matching the same pitch, lining up a robotic arm at the same angle, or playing an abstract video in sync.
There’s no tutorial on how to think to make these things happen, however, so learning to communicate via your mind with someone else necessitates time. “It takes around two to three hours to get some clear result, but you feel changes even from the beginning,” says Morozov. “It’s good to be in mood to work with it, not very tired or irritated. But anger or any other strange state of mind could be fun, too.”
When I ask Morozov whether or not he imagines 2ch as a precursor to mind-connected computers to come, he stresses how far off we are from such a thing. From his experience, we need more than EEG–we might need deeper MRI scans, eye tracking devices, and even various technologies that haven’t been invented yet, to adequately connect our mind to a computer–let alone directly to someone else’s mind (and indeed, the best mind-interfaces loop in some of these ideas. But given that 2ch was actually built, not as an esoteric art project, but an installation at Sochi’s Sirius Educational Center–a school for gifted students. Morozov offers that, “maybe some day one of them, or many of them, will start to work with cognitive science and invent something smart based on the inspiration from my artwork.”