'Mind-writing' makes amazing marks
New technology is helping paralysed people ‘write’ on a computer screen by just thinking about it.
New studies describe a method of communication for people with paralysis that uses a computer to decode attempted handwriting movements from brain signals. It appears to allow much faster communication than was previously possible.
In tests so far, a man who is paralysed from the neck down has been able to communicate just by thinking about handwriting the words, thanks to an implant in his brain.
US researchers used artificial-intelligence software combined with the brain implant to decode the man's thoughts about handwriting into text on a computer screen.
The man was able to communicate at speeds of about 18 words per minute, not far from 23 words per minute someone the same age would be expected to achieve texting on a smartphone.
The man has two implants on the left side of his brain that pick up signals from neurons firing in the part of the brain that governs hand movement.
Those brain signals are then sent via wires to a computer, where artificial-intelligence algorithms decode the signals to work out his intended hand and finger motion.
In addition, the authors suggest that these methods could be applied more generally to any sequential behaviour that cannot be observed directly; for example, decoding speech from someone who can no longer speak.
The paper is accessible here, while a video demonstration can be seen below.