High Speed Typing Brain-Computer Interface

The ancient art of handwriting has just pushed the field of brain-computer interface (BCI) to the next level. Researchers have devised a system that allows a person to communicate directly with a computer from his brain by imagining creating handwritten messages. The approach enables communication at a rate more than twice as fast as previous typing-by-brain experiments.

Researchers at Stanford University performed the study on a 65-year-old man with a spinal cord injury who had had an electrode array implanted in his brain. The scientists described the experiment recently in the journal Nature.

The big news from this paper is the very high speed,” says Cynthia Chestek, a biomedical engineer at the University of Michigan, who was not involved in the study. “It’s at least half way to able-bodied typing speed, and that’s why this paper is in Nature.”

For years, researchers have been experimenting with ways to enable people to directly communicate with computers using only their thoughts, without verbal commands, hand movement, or eye movement. This kind of technology offers a life-giving communication method for people who are “locked in” from brainstem stroke or disease, and unable to speak.

Successful BCI typing-by-brain approaches so far typically involve a person imagining moving a cursor around a digital keyboard to select letters. Meanwhile, electrodes record brain activity, and machine learning algorithms decipher the patterns associated with those thoughts, translating them into the typed words. The fastest of these previous typing-by-brain experiments allowed people to type about 40 characters, or 8 words, per minute.

That we can do this at all is impressive, but in real life that speed of communication is quite slow. The Stanford researchers were able to more than double that speed with a system that decodes brain activity associated with handwriting. In the new system, the participant, who had been paralyzed for about a decade, imagines the hand movements he would make to write sentences.

We ask him to actually try to write—to try to make his hand move again, and he reports this somatosensory illusion of actually feeling like his hand is moving,” says Frank Willett, a researcher at Stanford who collaborated on the experiment.

A microelectrode array implanted in the motor cortex of the participant’s brain records the electrical activity of individual neurons as he tries to write. “He hasn’t moved his hand or tried to write in more than ten years and we still got these beautiful patterns of neural activity,” says Willett.

The new findings, published online in Nature, could spur further advances benefiting hundreds of thousands of Americans, and millions globally, who’ve lost the use of their upper limbs or their ability to speak due to spinal-cord injuries, strokes or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, said Jaimie Henderson, MD, professor of neurosurgery.

This approach allowed a person with paralysis to compose sentences at speeds nearly comparable to those of able-bodied adults of the same age typing on a smartphone,” said Henderson, the John and Jene Blume — Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor.” The goal is to restore the ability to communicate by text.”

The participant in the study produced text at a rate of about 18 words per minute. By comparison, able-bodied people of the same age can punch out about 23 words per minute on a smartphone.

Surce: https://med.stanford.edu/

Telepathy For Real Within 8 Years

Imagine if telepathy were real. If, for example, you could transmit your thoughts to a computer or to another person just by thinking them. In just eight years it will be, says Openwater founder Mary Lou Jepsen, thanks to technology her company is working on.

Jepsen is a former engineering executive at Facebook, Oculus, Google[x] (now called X) and Intel. She’s also been a professor at MIT and is an inventor on over 100 patents. And that’s the abbreviated version of her resume. Jepsen left Facebook to found Openwater in 2016. The San Francisco-based start-up is currently building technology to make medical imaging less expensive.

I figured out how to put basically the functionality of an M.R.I. machine — a multimillion-dollar M.R.I. machine — into a wearable in the form of a ski hat,” Jepson said, though she does not yet have a prototype completed.

Current M.R.I. technology can already see your thoughts: “If I threw [you] into an M.R.I. machine right now … I can tell you what words you’re about to say, what images are in your head. I can tell you what music you’re thinking of,” says Jepsen. “That’s today, and I’m talking about just shrinking that down.”

One day Jepsen’s tech hat could “literally be a thinking cap,” she says. Jepsen explains the goal is for the technology to be able to both read and to output your own thoughts, as well as read the thoughts of others. In iconic Google vocabulary, “the really big moonshot idea here is communication with thought — with telepathy,”adds Jepsen.