|Mind-Boggling: A Commercially Available Brain-Controlled Computer|
Tuesday, 09 March 2010 16:58
While some scientists have managed to develop prototypes in their labs, mind-reading computers that can be commanded with a mere thought have mostly been confined to the realms of fantasy and futuristic science fiction… until now.
The world’s first patient-ready and commercially available brain computer interface (BCI) system was recently unveiled at the 2010 CeBIT digital tradeshow in Germany. The brainchild of Austrian firm Guger Technologies, the Intendix system is the first home-based computer system that will enable users to literally think their computers into action.
The ready-to-use Intendix system was especially designed to be used by patients suffering from locked-in syndrome or any other conditions impeding them from communicating with others. Users’ carer-givers can install the system at the patient’s homes. The system consists of an electro-encephalogram (EEG) sensor in the form of a skull cap covered by a multitude of electrodes to be worn by the user and which wirelessly connects to a computer, as well as the accompanying electronics and a notebook or netbook computer with the Intendix software installed on it. The electrodes on the cap measure the user’s brain activity, translate the signals received into a response and allow the user to type words without moving a finger.
According to the Intendix Web site, the skull cap is easy to wear and clean and the active electrodes do not require any special skin preparation. Simply put on the cap, inject gel into each of the electrodes and start to spell.
Users look at the screen of the connected computer on which a grid is displayed with flashing letters, symbols, numbers and commands. When the particular letter which the user wants to use lights up, the user thinks about the letter, his/her brain generates a spike of energy and Indentix interprets it as a command to either type that letter, read it out loud, copy it, send it in an e-mail. The system can even be used to trigger alarms.
Guger Technologies claims that users can be trained to use the system in as little as ten minutes. At first, it will take about 30 seconds for the computer to read/type a letter, but with practice users will become more relaxed and focused and the company says that the response time could then be cut down to as little as one or two seconds per letter.
Although the system will at first only be available to patients suffering from communications disabilities, there is already speculation that the system could eventually make your computer keyboard and mouse entirely obsolete, enabling all of us to type using only thought in the future.
At €9 000 (R 90 681.50) per system, Indentix is definitely not cheap, but according to the product Web site, Guger Technologies provides Intendix systems for rent so that the patient can at least test the product at home before committing to buy it.
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