For people with some kind of paralysis, who have lost the ability to speak Due to injury or illness, communicating is a challenge. If they still retain some of the mobility of their hands, the solution may lie in a computer keyboard on which to write their thoughts. As does the character of Arantxa, in Homeland. However, sometimes that is not possible. This is where mind control devices come into play, such as Neuralink.
Its objective is that the brain signals are transmitted to movement or orders to the computer operation. They can, for example, move a joystick, but also move the screen cursor, without resorting to any physical tool. This can allow users to mentally point to letters located on the monitor, to construct the words they want to communicate. These are some of the profits of Elon Musk’s company, but also of many others.
Now, a team of scientists from the Stanford University, whose results have just been published in Nature, has gone further. With his brain-machine interface, have succeeded in reproducing the handwriting. That is, the person who uses it thinks about how they would write the words and these are automatically transformed into text on the computer screen. The result, according to its developers, is a much faster writing, which would allow the user to communicate more efficiently.
Mind control for handwriting
Credit: F. Willett et al./Nature 2021 / Erika Woodrum
This study was possible thanks to the participation of a 65 year old man with an injury to his spinal cord that had paralyzed him from the neck down.
The researchers placed sensors on his brain and used a algorithm to identify letters, while he I thought about writing them. Once this step was completed, they translated those signals into characters, which were written on the computer screen.
The man managed to write at a rate of 90 characters per minute. This speed is twice as high as the previous record achieved by other mind control devices.
The man they tested the mind control device on can actually talk
In addition, they achieved that by the same mechanism the participant moved a robotic arm. They even wonder if they could get that, through this, could write directly on paper.
The man with paralysis who was involved in this study of mental control he was actually able to communicate, as his injury does not prevent him from speaking. Therefore, the next step for these scientists will be to repeat the experiment with another patient, affected by Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. This disease is known to be the one suffered by the physicist Stephen Hawking And, like him, the volunteer in question cannot speak either. Therefore, it would not only help to test his interface, it would also be useful for him to function in his day-to-day life.
Years ago all this would have been unthinkable. Now, all these people have the possibility to make your life a little easier. Thanks to science, as always.