When technology gets personal - 'BrainGate' Brain-Machine

When technology gets personal
This paves the way for brain implants

It's all part of what's known as a "pervasive ambient world", where "chips are everywhere".

In 2020, whipping out your mobile phone to make a call will be quaintly passé. By then phones will be printed directly on to wrists, or other parts of the body, says Ian Pearson, BT's resident futurologist. It's all part of what's known as a "pervasive ambient world", where "chips are everywhere". Inanimate objects will start to interact with us: we will be surrounded - on streets, in homes, in appliances, on our bodies and possibly in our heads - by things that "think". However, this future of highly personal devices, where technology is worn, or even fuses with the body itself, raises ethical questions.

Mr Pearson does not have a crystal ball. His job is to formulate ideas based on what science and technology are doing now, to guide industries into the future.


'BrainGate' Brain-Machine-Interface takes shape

An implantable, brain-computer interface the size of an aspirin has been clinically tested on humans by American company Cyberkinetics. The 'BrainGate' device can provide paralysed or motor-impaired patients a mode of communication through the translation of thought into direct computer control. The technology driving this breakthrough in the Brain-Machine-Interface field has a myriad of potential applications, including the development of human augmentation for military and commercial purposes. "The goal of the BrainGate program is to develop a fast, reliable and unobtrusive connection between the brain of a severely disabled person and a personal computer" stated Tim Surgenor, President and CEO of Cyberkinetics. "We [hope] to provide paralysed individuals with a gateway through which they can access the broad capabilities of computers, control devices in the surrounding environment, and even move their own limbs." Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have already demonstrated that a monkey can feed itself with a robotic arm simply by using signals from its brain, an advance that could enhance prosthetics for people, especially those with spinal cord injuries. Now, using the BrainGate system in the current human trials, a 25 year old quadriplegic has successfully been able to switch on lights, adjust the volume on a TV, change channels and read e-mail using only his brain.

Crucially, the patient was able to do these tasks while carrying on a conversation and moving his head at the same time.


Paralyzed Could Use Brain Waves To Move Objects

The newest study suggests that brain interface devices using old-fashioned electroencephalogram (EEG) readings may be just as useful as implants. EEG readings don't require implants, instead relying on electrodes placed on the scalp.A device that reads brain waves may give paralyzed patients a way to control prosthetic limbs without needing brain implants, medical investigators say. The brain-computer interface experiment, released yesterday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, comes amid rising interest in such devices. Paralyzed patients may someday lead more normal lives if scientists can translate brain activity into words and motion. Last year, for example, Duke University researchers showed that monkeys with brain implants could learn to control robotic arms.

Cyberkinetics Inc. of Foxborough, Mass., implanted an experimental brain interface into a quadriplegic patient this year.


Brain scanner is a lie detector

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Top Stories - December 13th, 2004


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