Aug. 14 - A tech start-up in Chile has developed software that harnesses brain activity to generate and print 3D models. The company is demonstrating the technology in schools with the hopes of showing children that the power of imagination has no limits. Ben Gruber reports.
Brian Astorga is imagining a scary monster. He's wearing a headset that captures the electrical signals generated by the neurons firing in his brain while a software program interprets them. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) BRIAN SUBICUETA ASTORGA, 8-YEAR-OLD STUDENT AT RUNGUE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, SAYING: "With my mind I could control everything. When I wanted to, I shrank it (the size of the figures), when I wanted to, I made it a lot bigger. They were pure bugs and each time they were bigger and if I didn't like them, I shrank them." Brian is building a three dimensional model with his thoughts, making changes that the software can read, along the way. It's the creation of Bryan Salt, founder of Chilean tech company "Thinker Thing". Salt says the software is designed with evolution as its inspiration. The children's brain signals play the part of genetic mutations. (SOUNDBITE) (English) BRYAN SALT, FOUNDER OF "THINKER THING," SAYING: "We start with a cube and build a 3D object from it. Then we move on and actually explain to them how the brain works. We showed them the actual neurons firing electricity within the brain using a neural headset from motive EPOC. This allows us to understand what activity is going on inside the mind and then we use this to understand what emotions the child has and this drives our software to build the 3D model." School director Gabriela Aguirre is enthusiastic about the technology. She says Salt's demonstration clearly shows the benefits for children like those in her care. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) GABRIELA AGUIRRE, DIRECTOR OF THE G-345 ELEMENTARY SCHOOL IN RUNGUE, SAYING: "When one imposes a ceiling...the children's learning stops... And these children don't have limits... If they are stimulated, they're capable of learning whatever they want... which will awaken their capacity for wonder. Today I saw that capacity for wonder in my kids." Wonder that grows as Brian and his classmates crowd around a 3D printer to watch his model comes to life - a monster that once existed only in his imagination.