New AI Tool Creates Images Using Brain Waves

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A team of researchers decoded human brain scans and recreated the images in their heads.

Their team, made up of researchers from the National University of Singapore, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Stanford University, did this by using brain scans of participants as they looked at more than 1,000 pictures — a red firetruck, a gray building, a giraffe eating leaves — while inside a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine, or fMRI, which recorded the resulting brain signals over time.

The researchers then sent those signals through an AI model to train it to associate certain brain patterns with certain images, according to a report by NBC News.

Later, when the subjects were shown new images in the fMRI, the system detected the patient’s brain waves, generated a shorthand description of what it thinks those brain waves corresponded to, and used an AI image-generator to produce a best-guess facsimile of the image the participant saw.

While the experiment requires training the model on each individual participant’s brain activity over the course of roughly 20 hours before it can deduce images from fMRI data, researchers believe that in just a decade the technology could be used on anyone, anywhere.

“It might be able to help disabled patients to recover what they see, what they think,” Zijiao Chen said, a doctoral student at the National University of Singapore and one of the researchers in this study. In the ideal case, Chen added, humans won’t even have to use cellphones to communicate. “We can just think.”

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