Patient T6 suffers from Lou Gehrig’s disease – a progressively worsening neuro-degenerative disease that has left her mostly paralysed below the neck. The patient, in her early 50’s, volunteered for the BrainGate clinical trials two years ago, and together they have made a breakthrough in transhumanism.
Existing technologies for people such as T6 are limited at best. The most well known is Stephen Hawking’s computer that tracks subtle cheek movements as an input for special typing software. Other technologies include input either by a singular button, blowing into a tube and even eye-tracking software. All of these work to a degree but are severly limited in their scope and ease of access, as well as being expensive.
Dr. Paul Nuyujukian, a neuroengineer and physician from Stanford University – a part of BrainGate – worked to make a solution that was “clinically feasibility”. This started out as a keyboard and cursor that was controlled with electrodes implanted in the brain of T6. While strictly functional, its was tiresome and slow.
The breakthrough was realising that the interface already created worked much like a touch screen. With that in mind the team purchased a Nexus 9 tablet off of Amazon and got to work.
The prosthetic was modified and made to communicate with the Nexus by way of Bluetooth.
“Basically the tablet recognized the prosthetic as a wireless Bluetooth mouse,” Nuyujukian said, “We pointed her to a web browser app and told her to have fun.”
We imagine it must be supremely bizarre for your computer to tell you that it has detected your mind as a Bluetooth device.
Now that the basics are covered, the team is working to improve the system. Click-and-drag,, multitouch, other operating systems, and the ability to use it without supervision is all on the cards. It is also pegged to be expanded to BrainGate’s three other clinical sites.[Source – Singularity Hub, Image – CC 2.0 by Allan Ajifo]