In the future, it may be possible to fly a plane, drive a car, and vacuum your home with the use of brain-controlled devices. For now, scientists in the UK and around the world are developing a brain-computer interface for use with a robotic wheelchair, according to an article in Echo News. The article said that once the technology is perfected, ‘The breakthrough would allow a stroke victim who was completely paralyzed and unable to speak to become mobile.’
The device works by way of a headband or brain-cap used to measure brainwave activity. The device then converts the brainwave information into commands to operate the wheelchair. The team of UK scientists asserted that the new technology would allow spinal cord injury,brain injury, stroke and paralysis victims to control wheelchairs with their brainwaves, even if they are unable to speak or otherwise communicate, the Echo article said.
In order to make the brain-computer interface work, patients must be trained to think clearly to reduce the amount of brainwave activity to a level recognizable by the current technology. The prototype device is capable of receiving four commands, forward, right, left, and backward. The scientists plan to install failsafes to protect wheelchair users in traffic and other dangerous situations.
There is still much research and development to be done before the device will be ready for use outside of the laboratory, but the implications of such technology are endless. With more advancement, a device could allow traumatic brain injury sufferers to communicate with their loved ones with the aid of a brain-computer interface to decode the formerly trapped messages. Paralysis victims could be fitted with devices that would allow them to walk, pilot a car or plane, and even the ability to experience sensation by way of sensory-input sensors.
Is it the stuff of science fiction? Maybe, but the doors between brainwaves and computers have been opened, and there is no sign of them closing any time soon. Spinal cord and brain injury sufferers have reason to set their hopes high and to expect a future in which true full recoveries might fast turn into a reality.
Echo staff. (February 2, 2010) ‘Essex University professors’ pioneering brain-activated wheelchair.’ Retrieved on February 2, 2010 from the Echo Web site: http://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/4884278.Brainwave_for_a_new_wheelchair/