We’ve been covering the BrainGate neural interface system for a decade already as it’s been implemented to control robotic arms and on-screen cursors to let severely disabled people regain a bit of independence. Now researchers from a variety of academic institutions around the U.S. are reporting in Nature Medicine on a new typing world record set by two people with ALS. Via the BrainGate2 brain-computer interface, by simply looking at a screen and thinking about letters displayed on it in a unique way, the patients achieved a typing rate of six words per minute. This is about double the speed of any previous similar study linking the brain directly to a computer typing mechanism.
The user controls a cursor as boxes surrounding individual letters grow in size. Since the neural interface was implanted so that it captures signals from the region of the brain responsible for hand movement, the user had to imagine moving one’s own hand to control the mouse cursor on the screen. This is relatively intuitive, but takes getting used to. In the study, the results were measured a full year post implantation, but that may overestimate how much time the patients actually spent practicing typing.
Here’s a demo of the software in action:
Study in Nature Medicine: Clinical translation of a high-performance neural prosthesis…
(hat tip: IEEE Spectrum)