• Quote of the Day
    "When you're going through hell, keep going."
    Winston Churchill, posted by David Baxter

David Baxter

Mar 26, 2004
Computers obey brain signals from paralysed people
Sun Apr 3, 2005

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - To somebody peeking into this little room, I'm just a middle-aged guy wearing a polka-dotted blue shower cap with a bundle of wires sticking out the top, relaxing in a recliner while staring at a computer screen.

But in my imagination, I'm sitting bolt upright on a piano bench playing Chopin's Military Polonaise.

Why? Because there's a little red box motoring across that screen, and I'm hoping my fantasy will change my brain waves just enough to make it rise and hit a target.

Some people have learned to hit such targets better than 90 per cent of the time. During this, my first of 12 training sessions, I succeed 58 per cent of the time - not much better than the 50 per cent I could get by chance alone.

Bottom line: Over the past half-hour, I've displayed just a bit more mental prowess than you'd expect from a bowl of cereal.

This isn't some far-out video game. I'm visiting one of many labs that are pursuing a complex but straightforward goal: to use electrical signals from the brain as instructions to computers and other machines, allowing paralysed people to communicate, move around and control their environment literally without moving a muscle.

Volunteers working elsewhere on such projects have done far more impressive things with their brain signals lately than I have:
  • A quadriplegic man in Massachusetts has shown he can change TV channels, turn room lights on and off, open and close a robotic hand and sort through messages in a mock e-mail program.
  • Seven paralysed patients near Stuttgart, Germany, have been surfing the Internet and writing letters to friends from their homes.
  • At a lab in Switzerland, two healthy people learned to steer a two-wheeled robot - sort of like a tiny wheelchair - through a dollhouse-sized floor plan.
  • And at labs in several universities, monkeys operate mechanical arms with just their brains. [/list:u] Some researchers talk about taking the technology much farther someday: using brain signals to reanimate paralysed limbs, for example, or to control "wearable robots," mechanical devices worn over arms or legs to restore movement. And while today's brain-driven typing programs produce only a few characters per minute, future technology might use brain signals to operate a speech synthesizer.


Nov 4, 2004
Wow! What a marvelous development for those who have been limited in what they could do. :eek:)

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