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Tapping Into Brain Power with Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI)

November 10, 2010 at 10:45 am PST

Don’t worry I am not trying to assimilate you! This post is about a technology while not new in any way has re-caught my attention as of late. Yes I am talking about Brain-Computer Interfaces or BCIs for short.

What is a BCI you ask? Well according to Wikipedia:

A brain–computer interface (BCI), sometimes called a direct neural interface or a brain–machine interface, is a direct communication pathway between a brain and an external device. BCIs are often aimed at assisting, augmenting or repairing human cognitive or sensory-motor functions.

BCIs research began in the 1970s and the focus quickly shifted to neuroprosthetics applications. The first implant of a  neuroprosthetics application in a human was in the mid-90s. However neuroprosthetics applications are not the same as BCIs as neuroprosthetics usually attaches a device to the nervous system and BCIs connect the brain (nervous system) directly to a computer. Neuroprosthetics can be attached to any part of the nervous system including peripheral nerves but BCIs are focused on attachment to the central nervous system specifically. The two terms are interchangeable as they focus on similar effects such as restoring sight, movement, hearing, etc.

The work that has been done with BCIs to restore capabilities to people is admirable. However what recently got me re-interested in BCIs is their integration with more common tasks such as typing, playing a game and navigating a virtual world.

In March of this year a team of researchers from IMEC, the Holst Center and the lab of neuro- and psychophysiology at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven introduced Mind Speller, a thought-to-text device. I am all ready an active user of speech-to-text tools such as Dragon Naturally Speak so thought-to-text is very intriguing to me. Read More »

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