In Pacific Rim (2013), a similar idea to this was featured. A helmet connected to your head and a suit connected to your spine allowed a human brain-machine interface, but apparently mostly in the other way, what the Jaeger was doing was transferred as feelings to the pilot, and they also shared their mental images with another pilot, if they could transfer their thoughts to the machine it isn't very clear to me.

Before that, in the Macross Plus mini-series - OVA - movie (1994), a humanoid zentraedi pilot was able to transfer his thoughts to a variable fighter and move it by thinking, or in other words he could pilot an aircraft which turned into a robot with his thoughts.

And before this, in the Jack Mc Kinney Robotech novels (1987), human pilots could fly and move their Veritechs (again, aircraft fighters which turned into robots) through "thinking caps" or helmets which transferred their thoughts to the machines.

But I'm pretty confident these can't be the first stories to feature this idea. What was the first story to feature helmets that read your mind to control a machine?

  • Honorable mention to Waldo by R.A.Heinlein and "The Girl who was Plugged in" by James Tiptree, Jr.
    – Spencer
    Feb 20, 2019 at 0:22
  • I am not 100% certain (and earlier works have already been mentioned), but I am pretty sure there was a robot controlling helmet in one of Stanislaw Lem's (author of Solaris and many other SF works) short stories, either in Robots' Fables compilation or Pilot Pirx. Both were published in 196x-ies. isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?166136
    – Gnudiff
    Feb 20, 2019 at 6:04

2 Answers 2


The earliest use of mind-reading control helmets I can think of at the moment dates back to 1963, or to 1949, or to 1934.

I don't know which story was the first to feature mind-reading machines used by people to control other machines, but in The Skylark of Valeron (1949) by E.E. Smith the protagonists build the giant spherical spaceship Skylark of Valeron and use mind reading helmets to control it. There is a scene where Seaton throws his mind-reading helmet off his head for fear that the ship will read his desire to kill someone and act on it.

The Skylark of Valeron originally appeared in Astounding Stories, August to December, 1934, though the version I read was a paperback edition, probably the Pyramid edition of 1963.

Thus the detail of the mind reading control interface helmets might date back to 1963, or to 1949, or to 1934.

And I don't remember if I read about mind reading control helmets in any earlier story.

  • Do you have any reason to believe that the story was markedly expanded in its later publication?
    – Wildcard
    Feb 19, 2019 at 17:02
  • 2
    @Wildcard Probably more an issue of him not having the ability to determine if it wasn't, so he can only provide speculation and qualify it with what he knows. It's easy to speculate that the 34 version is the same as the 63 one; but if they haven't actually seen the 34 one, it doesn't hurt to tell the truth and leave assumptions out.
    – JMac
    Feb 19, 2019 at 18:40
  • 3
    The first book in the series "Skylark of space" introduced the mind reading helmets on the planet Osnome in order to learn languages and all the other knowledge in someones brain. This was originally published in 1928 but modified for release as a novel later
    – mgh42
    Feb 19, 2019 at 23:13
  • 1
    "His senses reeled under the shock, but he recovered quickly, and even as he threw off the phones Loring slammed down over his head the helmet of the Fenachrone. DuQuesne was now commander of the airlocks, and the break in communication had been of such short duration that not the slightest suspicion had been aroused. He snapped out mental orders to the distant power room, the side of the vessel opened, and the scout ship was drawn within." The Skylark of Valeron, August 1934, Astounding.
    – DavidW
    May 17, 2023 at 17:00

1957 Poul Anderson's short story "Call Me Joe".

Ed Anglesey is an invalid confined to a wheelchair. Working from a space station orbiting Jupiter, he uses a headset to control an artificial centauroid body on the surface of Jupiter. In the end, he rejects his human form to live only as the centauroid called Joe. (Yes, this is essentially the same plot as the movie Avatar, minus the environmental message.)

Telepathy is an element in the control interface. I don't know if this disqualifies the story.

Cover for the short story "Call Me Joe". It depicts a centaur holding a long handled weapon.

  • 1
    IMO, tt's similar enough as for considering it a predecessor. Though I will wait to see if there is an older one to accept the answer
    – Pablo
    Feb 19, 2019 at 15:46

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