How far away is a vehicle application we wonder.

In a step toward linking a person's thoughts to machines, Honda has developed a technology that uses brain signals to control a robot's very simple moves, according to The Associated Press.

The report said that the technology that Honda has developed with ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories could in future be used to replace keyboards or cell phones and could also have applications in helping people with spinal cord injuries.

In a video demonstration seen by the news agency in Tokyo, brain signals detected by a magnetic resonance imaging scanner were relayed to a robotic hand. A person in the MRI machine made a fist, spread his fingers and then made a V-sign. Several seconds later, a robotic hand mimicked the movements.

Further research would be needed to decode more complex movements, AP noted.

The machine for reading the brain patterns also would have to become smaller and lighter - like a cap that people can wear as they move about, ATR researcher Yukiyasu Kamitani told The Associated Press.

What Honda calls a "brain-machine interface" is an improvement over past approaches, such as those that required surgery to connect wires. Other methods still had to train people in ways to send brain signals or weren't very accurate in reading the signals, Kamitani said.

Honda officials told the news agency the latest research was important not only for developing intelligence for the company's walking bubble-headed robot, Asimo, but also for future automotive technology.

"There is a lot of potential for application to autos such as safety measures," Tomohiko Kawanabe, president of Honda Research Institute Japan, said.

AP said that Asimo, about 50 inches tall, can talk, walk and dance. Available only for rental, it is important for Honda's image and has appeared at events and in TV ads.

At least another five years are probably needed before Asimo starts moving according to its owner's mental orders, Honda told AP.

Right now, Asimo's metallic hand can't even make a V-sign, the report added.