While 3D printing has long been touted as the future of mass manufacture, and their have been some efforts to bring the technology to the consumer level – take the MakerBot as an example – it still requires a certain amount of knowhow to produce the digital files required. Chile-based ThinkerThing aims to skip the design process by connecting users’ brains directly to a 3D printer through neurosensory tech, to create a physical manifestation of their imagination.
The first prototype of the ThinkerThing system uses an EmotivEPOC headset – capable of reading the wearer’s brainwaves and detecting emotion and facial expression, as well as intuiting conscious thoughts – and the desktop MakerBot 3D printer. Users are shown design elements on a screen while wearing the headset and – by reacting to what they see – they can guide the software to add or discard elements until the object resembles what they had in mind. When the headset is taken off, the final piece is sent to the printer. ThinkerThing has already successfully unveiled its first thought-up object – an orange monster created by founder George Laskowsky. Although a rudimentary way to create a physical object with only the mind, the startup has demonstrated that the technology already exists. With advances in neuroscience, the design process could be made more accurate.
What’s interesting about the project is that – along with over USD 5,000 raised from an Indiegogo campaign – it has won the support of the Chile government, whose backing is set to help the team travel around schools to let children experiment with the system. The results will then be exhibited and the limited edition objects sold.
The ThinkerThing system could demonstrate to young children in Chile that it is possible to bring their creative dreams to life. As the technology improves, could this combination of mind-reading and 3D printing offer a genuine platform for object creation?