Published: Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Thought-powered 3D printing

George Laskowsky, Chief Technical Officer of Thinker Thing, displays the EPOC handset used to create 3D objects from thoughts. Photo: BBC

George Laskowsky, Chief Technical Officer of Thinker Thing, displays the EPOC handset used to create 3D objects from thoughts. Photo: BBC

Scientists have succeeded in making the first ever object made from thought, when a piece of orange plastic resembling the arm of a toy tyrannosaurus was made through a 3D printer.

This milestone was reached with little fanfare last month at the Santiago MakerSpace, a technology and design studio in the Chilean capital.

The toy limb’s shape was determined according to the wishes of its designer, as gleaned from a headset picking up his brainwaves.

The man in question was George Laskowsky, Chief Technical Officer of Thinker Thing, the Chilean start-up developing the mind-controlled 3D printing system.

The Emotional Evolutionary Design (EED) is a software that allows Thinker Thing to interpret its users’ thoughts, said Bryan Salt, CEO of Thinker Thing.

Its current role is to power the Monster Dreamer Project, which will allow users to design their own fantastical creatures using the power of thought.

Among others, Chilean children will get the first opportunity to try it out during tour of schools in the country at the end of this month.

When those children sit in front of a computer running Monster Dreamer, they will be presented with a series of different body shapes in bubbles.

These will mutate randomly, with built-in rules preventing them becoming too abstract.

The children’s reactions to the changes will be picked up by an Emotiv EPOC headset, a $300 electroencephalography (EEG) device designed to pick up the electrical signals from brain cell interactions using fourteen sensors on the scalp.

As different brain states such as excitement or boredom generate specific patterns of brain activity, the computer can identify the shapes associated with positive emotional responses.

The favoured shapes will grow bigger on the screen, while the others shrink.

The biggest shapes are combined to generate a body part, and the process is repeated for different body parts until the monster is complete.

The final result should be a unique 3D model that is ready for printing as a solid object.