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We Are Social and Mentalista introduce thought-powered football to Cannes

côte d'azur | …cannes lions

24 June 2019

Moving objects using only the power of your mind is not just the stuff of science fiction. With the help of AI, we can all have the ability to control the objects around us with our thoughts, like sci fi heroes such as Yoda or Eleven in Stranger Things.
We Are Social and the AI start-up Mentalista hosted the first ever thought-powered football match at the Cannes Lions festival and revealed the technology behind it in their session on Wednesday, called 'Beyond Voice: Introducing Thought-Powered AI'.
Mentalista researches and develops communication interfaces between the brain and the environment. In the session, Mentalista founder Bastien Didier told the audience how his company developed an algorithm to analyse mental images from the visual cortex in the brain. These images are then materialized using electrical impulses which, in turn, make it possible to program an action onto a connected object.
"We try to catch and classify the imagination," Didier explained to the audience. "We translate the electrical current in the brain and then we can use it in an algorithm."
To demonstrate how it works, Didier and We Are Social's head of innovation Stéphane Maguet invited two members of the audience to the stage to play a game of 'Mentalista Foot' - thought-powered football.
The game took place on a mini football field set up in front of the stage.
The two players, who were seated on chairs alongside the mini pitch, put on headbands with electrodes. These electrodes pick up thoughts and visualisations through electrical impulses.
The two players were instructed to visualise the ball moving around the field and direct it with their visualisations to the goal to score. An AI-connected ball was placed in the middle of the field which flashed a red light if one player managed to control and move it, and a blue light if their opponent got control over the ball. Many goals were scored in a fascinating and awe-inspiring match. Afterwards, both players admitted they found it tough but were amazed at how, with practice, their imagination could spark movement from the ball in real-time. "I found success by genuinely imagining the path I wanted to go down," the winning player said.
Maguet explained how We Are Social is working with Mentalista to bring its technology to market for brands. "[Mentalista] brings us technology and we find the uses and the storytelling, so we can provide tailor made solutions for our clients," he said.
We Are Social is creating campaigns powered by this tech for clients and create global awareness around thought-powered technologies and will help Mentalista to extend its technology to new products and services. The first product We Are Social is working on is a digital extension of Mentalista Foot to turn it into multi-user VR game.
Maguet told the audience that this non invasive technology presents just the first generation of mind interaction with the environment - the next generation is invasive. "To be clear, we are talking about implants," he said. Elon Musk's Neuralink brain-computer interface is an example of this.
Maguet warned that technological advances like these can have unforeseen consequences and must be closely scrutinised. "We must not be blinded by technologies and keep an open critical eye - especially when it involves such fundamental changes."
But when the tech is used constructively, the possibilities are limitless. "We can improve our intellectual performance, we can save memory and we can control our environment in a positive way," he said. "With Mentalista Foot, you've seen a quick glimpse of what the future has in store."