When Ian Burkhart was 19, he broke his neck and lost all movement below his shoulders. His brain could still tell his hands how to move, but his severed spinal cord meant there was no way for these messages to get through.
Now 24, Burkhart is afforded temporary use of his right hand through a chip in his brain. As you can imagine, it allows him to do loads of stuff that most of us take for granted: hold a toothbrush, swipe a credit card, hold a jar or cup and sometimes even play a videogame.
In this instance Burkhart can only really play the one game, and it resembles Guitar Hero, AP reports. Burkhart goes to a laboratory once a week, where he’s hooked up to the experimental device that lets him move his arm for a few hours.
Essentially, the device interprets his brain signals and sends them to his arm through electrodes. This lets Burkhart move his fingers, and allows him to play a game called Frets of Fire.
Burkhart said he became mentally worn out during the first few months because of the concentration needed to move the right muscles, but he says that it has gotten easier over time.
It’s the hope of Burkart and the researchers that this device can eventually be used outside of the lab, potentially at his home. Naturally, Burkhart says that would seriously improve his quality of life and independence.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.