Thought-controlled avatars in Second Life

Researchers from the Biomedical Engineering Laboratory at Keio University in Japan have developed a thought-control interface that can direct the movement of a Second Life avatar and enables users to control the avatars on screen in real time. All you have to do is think about moving various body parts — when the user imagines moving his/her own feet the avatar walks forward, and it turns right and left when the user imagines moving his/her right and left arms. In other words: the brain-computer interface (BCI) technology allows the user to exercise real-time control over the avatar in the 3D virtual world without moving a muscle. Future plans are to improve the BCI so that users can make Second Life avatars perform more complex movements and gestures.

You may think that a brain-computer interface was designed to make the life of the lazy people even easier, or that using the BCI instead of a keyboard will cause Second Lifers’ arms muscles to die away. But that was not the intention of the researchers. They hope the mind-controlled avatar, which was created through a joint medical engineering project involving Keio’s Department of Rehabilitation Medicine and the Tsukigase Rehabilitation Center, will one day help people with serious physical impairments communicate and do business in Second Life. That’s indeed a noble goal.

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