An Olympic-goer controls the lights on the CN Tower from halfway across the country.
If you’re in the mood to feel an overwhelming sense of power, hop on a plane and go to the Ontario Pavilion at the Olympics in Vancouver. There, you can control the lights on the CN Tower with your mind. Yes, that’s right: with your mind.
Interaxon, a Toronto-based company that makes products and experiences using brain-computer interface technology, developed a product specifically for the Olympics that allows users to change how fast the lights spin around Toronto’s most famous landmark with their brain—from about three thousand kilometres away.
We were able to test the sci-fi contraption, and man, is it ever cool.
After waiting in line for about forty minutes, we were escorted to a high-tech chair that faces a huge screen with a live shot of downtown Toronto projected on it. A very large set of headphones were placed on our head with a wraparound sensor that made contact with the front of our forehead. As the person giving instructions described, humans have two types of brain waves—beta and alpha. The more focussed and concentrated our brain is, the more beta waves we produce, and the more relaxed our brain is, the more alpha waves we produce. The contraption converts those waves into light patterns which are then beamed across the country: the beta waves make the lights spin faster, and the alpha waves tell them to slow down.
Participants watch a (somewhat blurry) live shot of downtown Toronto as they manipulate the speed of the lights.
We were having trouble getting the beta waves going, so the trainer suggested that we count the window lights on the surrounding high-rises. Almost instantly, the beta waves on the little monitor screen attached to the chair shot up, and sure enough, the lights started to spin faster.
In two more chairs, two other Olympic-goers were doing the exact same thing for the lights on the Parliament Buildings and Niagara Falls.
The attraction goes live at the pavilion every day at three in the afternoon, when it’s dark back here in Toronto. So for the next two weeks, keep your eye on downtown, and imagine what somebody halfway across the country is thinking.
Photos by Alixandra Gould/Torontoist.