A non-invasive device that allows severely paralysed people to interact with a computer via their brain signals has been improved to make it a viable commercial product by Cambridge Consultants (CCL).
Known as a brain-computer interface (BCI), the device uses electroencephalography (EEG) to detect microvolt brain signals, then applies an adaptive algorithm that focuses on the EEG features the person is best able to control.
Those signals can be mapped onto functions for tasks such as manoeuvring a cursor around a PC screen, or for spelling out words for a speech synthesiser.
The system, developed by researchers at the Wadsworth Center, a New York State health unit, originally used a large, $13,000 64-channel amp and the user had to wear a bulky cap to apply 64 electrodes to the skull.
CCL’s input involved reducing the size, complexity and cost to make it more suitable for home or hospital use.
The cost of the enhanced system has been reduced to $5,000, the amount users can claim from Medicare for a speech-assist device.
Right now, usage of these types of systems is limited to paralysed people. But inventions that were originally made for the ill, have a tendency of ending up being used by other people as well (example: bubblebaths; originally invented for people with backaches).
In the future, our computers will be able to read our minds. We'll be giving it commands by thinking about them.
That should make for an interesting videogame experience. ;)