You're sitting at a PC, your arms folded across your chest as you ponder an important question: What's the capital of Belize?
As you form the query in your mind, it suddenly appears typed out like magic on screen and, in a flash, the answer appears. (It's Belmopan, in case you were curious.)
Okay, you just can't form a question in your head and have your PC answer it without speaking or typing — yet. Intel, in conjunction with Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh, however, is working on mental telepathy methods for man-to-machine communications. Really.
Your brain produces electrical signals or impulses to represent concepts or things, regardless of language. If you see a cow, for instance, your brain generates an electrical signal that means "cow," regardless of language. The interface uses an array of scans — EEG (electroencephalography), fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and MEG (magnetoencephalography) — to map the brain's electrical neuron activity and decode these signals. Then, using fancy algorithms, a headband type of device would be able to detect and translate these signals and transmit the results to another machine.
A tiny, tiny piece of this technology is already being used in toys like the Star Wars Force Trainer. Other than thought PC control, this brain-sensing technology could also be used for a Star Trek-like universal translator. That is, as long as the alien has a device like this and its brain patterns are identical to humans.
More likely, if and when the translator technology is ever perfected — probably at least a decade — it'll be used more for terrestrial travel interpretation purposes. Of course, by then we all may be man/machine merged, a la the Krell from Forbidden Planet.