"Imagine a reality where computers can visualize what you are thinking," said Catherine Clifford at CNBC. Over 10 months, scientists at Kyoto University scanned the brain activity of subjects who were shown images — of animals and objects, geometric shapes, and letters of the alphabet — and later when subjects were asked to recall the images. Both sets of brain scans were then used to train a neural network to "decode" the data and recreate what the person had been thinking about.

(Courtesy image)

Pixel by pixel, the AI was able to reconstruct images of insects, owls, and even a man in a cowboy hat — far more sophisticated visualizations, with more layers of color and structure, than AI has previously been able to do. The potential applications are "mind-boggling": We could one day draw or paint "by imagining something," and hallucinations or dreams could "be visualized by a computer."