The U.S. Army has awarded researchers a $4-million grant to develop synthetic telepathy, which would allow soldiers to communicate with each other via brainwaves. The technology could also aid patients with degenerative muscle diseases communicate. The research, undertaken by the Universities of California-Irvine and Maryland, as well as Carnegie Mellon, would allow people to compose messages with their brain waves and then transmit them.

“The brain-computer interface would use a noninvasive brain imaging technology like electroencephalography to let people communicate thoughts to each other. For example, a soldier would "think" a message to be transmitted and a computer-based speech recognition system would decode the EEG signals. The decoded thoughts, in essence translated brain waves, are transmitted using a system that points in the direction of the intended target,” says the UC-Irvine research announcement.

Synthetic Telepathy uses electroencephalograph (EEG) technology to read brainwaves. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) augment this by creating an accurate map of the brain, as these technologies allow for a deeper reading than does EEG. Researchers would then map the brain’s response to language, which will take 15-20 years.

"There are technical hurdles that need to be overcome first, but then again, 20 years ago people would have thought that the two of us talking to each other half a world away over Skype was crazy," said Paul Sajda, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering Columbia University.

By Mark Alvarez