WIRED reports on what “may be a modern equivalent of Alexander Graham Bell’s ‘Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.’:
Early on the afternoon of April 1, Adam Wilson posted a message to Twitter. But instead of using his hands to type, the University of Wisconsin biomedical engineer used his brain. “USING EEG TO SEND TWEET,” he thought.
The research, which could provide a new means of communication for people locked in their own skulls by paralysis or other problems, is built on the BCI2000, a software tool pioneered by Justin Williams, head of the University of Wisconsin’s Neural Interfaces lab, and Wadsworth Center neural injury specialist Gerwin Schalk, which translates thought-induced changes in a scalp’s electrical fields to control an on-screen cursor.
Although it’s in wide use in labs, notes WIRED, “its communications applications have been largely restricted to messages appearing on a nearby screen. “
“A lot of these have been scientific exercises, geared to writing things out but not really doing anything with it,” said Williams. “We wanted to say, that’s not how a person would want to communicate, especially with the advent of online communications.”
Williams notes that emailing is relatively difficult and inefficient for someone using a brain-computer interface. Twitter, by contrast, “is very serendipitous. It handles all the things that we’ve been struggling to make easy for a patient to do. It puts messages where people can find them. Let the world know how you’re doing, what you’re thinking, and they’ll find you. And that’s perfect for these patients and their families.”
So brain-computer interfaces are already here for limited uses (Wilson and Williams will next install the program in the homes of 10 people already outfitted with trial versions of the BCI2000). In the future, more advanced brain-computer interfaces could help people control prostheses, powered exoskeletons, humanoid robots…
Well, what would you do if you could control a computer with your thoughts?
(Image: Wikimedia Commons)
[tags]brain, computers, disabled, Twitter[/tags]