Imagine being able to spell words and move things with your brain. It sounds impossible, but thanks to developing technology it might not be so far away.
It looks like a strange hat, but its actually a communication device for your brain. It’s called a brain-computer interface, or BCI, and it interprets your brain signals as a computer would interpret a keyboard’s actions, meaning you don’t have to move a muscle to communicate.
“This produces signals that you can detect with an electrode cap outside the head or different kinds of sensors and therefore people can communicate without moving,” said Brendan Allison of Guger Technologies. “For example you could move a cursor to the left or to the right just by thinking about that.”
The technology has been in development for decades, and it’s still not perfect, but BCI’s have been recently known to help stroke and coma patients establish a basic form of contact where they were previously thought unresponsive. They have a variety of uses, not limited to spelling out words with the mind.
“People have used it to operate a robotic arm, they’ve used it to operate a prosthetic limb, they used it to bring a computer interface to operate electrical stimulation to move muscles that are paralyzed,” said Jane Huggins of the University of Michigan.
G.TEC, or Guger Technologies, which develops BCI technology handled a demonstration of said tech Friday at Northern Michigan University’s University Center. The university’s psychology department is helping to develop a new form of BCI-related technology that utilizes touch with patients that cannot see.
“A possible alternative is to use the tactile sense to be able to control a brain computer interface,” said Mounia Ziat of the NMU Department of Psychology. “Here we have a neck device that delivers tactile stimulation around the neck.”