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Jedi Mind Tricks

Getting hands-off with electroneurography

In the early part of the original Star Wars, the ever-whining Luke Skywalker and mercurial neighborhood hermit, Obiwan Kenobi, head into the heart of Mos Eisley. As they do, stormtroopers stop them in search of a pair of missing droids. With the mere gesture of his hand and the power of the Force, Obiwan telepathically and telekinetically manipulates the mind of the weak-willed imperial soldier with the iconic words, “These are not the droids you are looking for.”

As a kid, I spent far more time than I’d like to admit reenacting scenes from that movie and pretended I had the power of the Force. When I joined the Navy and attended the Defense Language Institute, I discovered that adults like to do that too. That’s a different conversation, however.

As a non-LARPing adult, I still believed that science would get us close to power like unto Obiwan Kenobi and, as luck would have it, I eventually found what I was looking for. “Which power?” you ask. Well, it wasn’t mind reading. Which is a good thing because I’ve watched enough sci-fi to tell you that constantly hearing the thoughts of others would suck. It wasn’t telekinesis either. Controlling objects with your mind like Eleven from Stranger Things would be amazing. But the last time I saw a teenage girl with a bloody nose that could control things with her mind I was twelve and had just kicked my middle school crush in the face during karate class. If telekinesis exists, it was that moment, when the look on her face crushed my heart.

Then, her foot crushed my groin.

But I digress.

Getting back to the point, using telekinesis or hand movements to control people is not a thing. But what if, instead of people, we used gestures to control robots?

Now we’re getting somewhere.

Electroneurography is a modern technological method that may not give you the power of the Force, but it’s pretty darn close. This form of science studies the measurement of the speed of conduction of impulses down a peripheral nerve. Using sensors on the skin or even on the eye, electroneurography detects the electrical activity in the nervous system. This is usually used to measure nerve damage. But imagine if you took the nerve impulses and directly correlated them to a particular activity like, let’s just say, hand gestures, and you did so with a watch-like device. Then, you connected a wireless communication system. Finally, you mapped that gesture to a desired behavior on a robot.

Well, you’d get what my buddies at Pison are doing. And you’d feel pretty darn cool. It may not be LARPing-in-the-Navy cool. But that’s because it’s controlling-robots-with-gestures cool.

Pison Technologies gesture control interface

I helped develop some of the real-world applications for this technology in my past life and as soon as I began writing, I wanted to incorporate it into my stories. So, just like all the other technology in my books, electroneurography isn’t just a bunch of fancy hand waving; it’s the real deal. May the Force be with you.

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J.L. Hancock
J.L. Hancock

Drawing from a graduate level education in national security studies, foreign language expertise, and experience as a technician embedded with special operations forces, J.L. Hancock writes fiction that reflects the complexities of the modern world. His eye for detail and authentic narrative is rooted in the many lives he has lived, the worlds he has seen, and the people who inspire him.