‘World First’ Brain Device Translates Thoughts Directly Onto Computer At More Than Double Previous Speed
For the first time ever, scientists have managed to instantly translate someone’s mental handwriting into text on a screen using a brain-computer interface.
It comes hot on the heels of Elon Musk’s Neuralink brain chip, which has only been shown off to the public in a pig named Gertrude so far. However, the folks on the BrainGate team have developed technology that is capable of transmitting signals with ‘single-neuron resolution and in full broadband fidelity.’
The consortium, operating out of Brown University in Rhode Island, recently held clinical trials with participants with tetraplegia. In a world first, they managed to demonstrated use of an intracortical wireless BCI with an external wireless transmitter – or in layman’s terms, they managed to write with their brain.
Research published last month in the IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering journal, explained how the system ditches cables, instead revolving around a small transmitter weighing little more than 40g, which is placed on a user’s head where it ‘connects to an electrode array within the brain’s motor cortex using the same port used by wired systems.’
In new research published in the Nature journal, as per The Independent, the sensor is capable of reading the brain signals associated with handwriting and translating them into text on a screen at a rate of 90 characters per minute.
This smashed the earlier record of 40 characters per minute achieved using an entirely different method, revolving around people thinking about the motions used to type on a keyboard rather than handwriting.
Dr Leigh Hochberg, who led the BrainGate clinical trial, told the publication: ‘An important mission of our BrainGate consortium research is to restore rapid, intuitive communication for people with severe speech or motor impairments… [the] demonstration of fast, accurate neural decoding of handwriting marks an exciting new chapter in the development of clinically useful neural technologies.’
The trial saw a 65-year-old volunteer, who’s paralysed from the neck down, capable of responding to questions at a similar rate to someone typing on a smartphone, with two small electrodes in his brain controlling the movements of his right arm and hand. It’s not quite Upgrade’s overpowered ‘STEM’, but it’s certainly something.
Hochberg added: ‘The people who enroll in the BrainGate trial are amazing. It’s their pioneering spirit that not only allow us to gain new insights into human brain function, but that leads to the creation of systems that will help other people with paralysis.’
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IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering