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'Mental typewriter' controlled by thought alone

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    'Mental typewriter' controlled by thought alone

    18:35 09 March 2006
    NewScientist.com news service
    Will Knight

    A computer controlled by the power of thought alone has been demonstrated at a major trade fair in Germany.

    The device could provide a way for paralysed patients to operate computers, or for amputees to operate electronically controlled artificial limbs. But it also has non-medical applications, such as in the computer games and entertainment industries.

    The Berlin Brain-Computer Interface (BBCI) – dubbed the "mental typewriter" – was created by researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute in Berlin and Charité, the medical school of Berlin Humboldt University in Germany. It was shown off at the CeBit electronics fair in Hanover, Germany.

    The machine makes it possible to type messages onto a computer screen by mentally controlling the movement of a cursor. A user must wear a cap containing electrodes that measure electrical activity inside the brain, known as an electroencephalogram (EEG) signal, and imagine moving their left or right arm in order to manoeuvre the cursor around.

    "It's a very strange sensation," says Gabriel Curio at Charité. "And you can understand from the crowds watching that the potential is huge."

    Learning algorithms

    Curio says users can operate the device just 20 minutes after going through 150 cursor moves in their minds. This is because the device rapidly learns to recognise activity in the area of a person's motor cortex, the area of the brain associated with movement. "The trick is the machine-learning algorithms developed at the Fraunhofer Institute," Curio says.

    John Chapin, an expert in using implanted electrodes to control computers, agrees EEG sensing technology is advancing rapidly. "There's been a lot of progress on the non-invasive side in recent years," he told New Scientist.

    http://www.newscientist.com/channel/...ch/dn8826.html
    Last edited by PN; 11 Mar 2006, 10:03 PM. Reason: CC copyright policy
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