Making physical objects with your mind is the stuff not just of science fiction but of fantasy. But an astonishing new project is enabling primary school kids in Chile to do just that – sort of.
The idea is that the kids use their minds to create an object which is then 3D-printed. Now, for accuracy, their minds are not really being read, they are using an interface which reads neural signals and sends them to a computer. Software on the computer interprets the signals much like mouse motions and a through that interface they alter the features in a design. So the user isn’t just visualising any old thing and having it pop out of the printer, they are manipulating a design. But, regardless, it’s a very cool mash-up of leading-edge technologies. It’s all being turned into products which look to be available in time for Christmas.
But that in itself is not what makes this such a great project. The actual technology is interesting enough. But what they are doing with it is taking it to remote areas of Chile and showing it to kids there, explaining what’s behind it and allowing the kids to create with it. Their website quotes Yeats, “Education is not filling a bucket, it’s lighting a fire” and it’s in that context I think this is stunning. Showing these kids how amazing technology can be, that the future is available to them. Maybe that will fire one of them up to think of the next big steps.
Kudos to the inventors, the Chilean Government which is providing funding and a range of independent backers for making this possible. Sometimes just the idea that fabulous things are possible is enough.