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'Project Black Mirror' Siri mind-control hack is likely a hoax

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Project Black Mirror's Siri mind-control setup is likely a hoax, according to scientists and companies familiar with brain-computer interfaces.

Project Black Mirror
Project Black Mirror

Last week, we reported on a video by a group called Project Black Mirror that shows an iPhone 4S hooked up to a rig that purportedly converts your thoughts into Siri commands. Since then, a number of people have claimed that this video is nothing more than a hoax. The COO of thought-controlled computing company InteraXon posted a blog detailing several ways in which Project Black Mirror's video is a fake, and his entry is just one of several coming from scientists of all levels.

For starters, Project Black Mirror claims to be using ECG pads to measure the brain's electrical activity — but ECG pads measure heart activity; EEG pads measure brain activity. Also, the scale for measuring those inputs is apparently off by an order of magnitude. Project Black Mirror says they measure brain activity on a 0 to 5v scale, while brain activity is typically measured in microvolts. According to InteraXon COO Trevor Coleman, "there is no way they could detect any meaningful brainwave signals through that setup." Coleman doesn't stop there, outlining how Project Black Mirror essentially makes impossible claims about what types of information can currently be recorded from the brain; he believes detecting complex ideas like "Call" or "John" are at least 15 years away.

There are more reasons for skepticism, including flaws discovered in the circuit board setup and doubt as to whether four EEG pads would be sufficient to capture this level of brain activity. Emotiv, another company working on brain-computer interfaces, offers a product that operates similarly to Project Black Mirror's setup — but it uses 14 EGG inputs and still doesn't achieve the level of control the Siri hack claims. Project Black Mirror hasn't responded to the mounting skepticism, but we'll be keeping an eye on this to see what, if anything, they post next.