Feeds

Boffins create thought-controlled computer

A boon for the disabled

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Boffins at the EC's Joint Research Centre have created a computer that can "read" peoples' minds and enable disabled people to write message using nothing but thoughts.

The system has been tried out on a 40-year-old severely disabled man in London, the Sunday Times reports and he was ecstatic. Cathal O'Philbin, who has spinal muscular atrophy, said: "This is something really special. It would make a big difference to me."

The computer works by picking up the electromagnetic signals created in the brain when people think of different things. Electrodes attached to a plastic cap which is put on the user's head pick up the signals. Then by tying in thought patterns with different, simple instructions the computer can be controlled by thought alone.

In the case of Mr O'Philbin, he was told to think hard about a rotating cube, about moving his left arm (which he can't do physically) and then to relax mentally (abstract, physical, calm). This provided three widely varying electromagnetic patterns which were then tied-in with moving a cursor across the computer screen. By moving the cursor, he was able to select letters and managed to spell out "Arsenal Football Club".

Mr O'Philbin said it was hard getting the two to work but was asked to be given one as soon as possible. The Spanish scientist who co-ordinated the project, Jose del Millan said: "The key to our system is its natural and quick operation. Without any assistance a user can teach the machine to recognise his thoughts within one or two hours."

The Adaptive Brain Interface cost £1 million to develop and, you'll be glad to hear, uses special software sitting on top of Windows 2000. The cap costs £150.

The system is obviously in its early stages but its effectiveness has been proved and the project team hopes to gradually improve it - to the extent where it may even prove a valuable application for able-bodied people.

Del Millan was keen to dispel sci-fi evil mind-reading applications of it however. "We are only developing applications where the user consciously decides to issue a command to the computer," he said. "We are not exploring the brain at the unconscious level." But that's what they want you to believe.

The Thought Police are known to be taking an interest in the project. ®

Related Link

Sunday Times article

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Sonos AXES support for Apple's iOS4 and 5
Want to use your iThing? You can't - it's too old
Amazon says Hachette should lower ebook prices, pay authors more
Oh yeah ... and a 30% cut for Amazon to seal the deal
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
Joe Average isn't worth $10 a year to Mark Zuckerberg
The Social Network deflates the PC resurgence with mobile-only usage prediction
Chips are down at Broadcom: Thousands of workers laid off
Cellphone baseband device biz shuttered
Feel free to BONK on the TUBE, says Transport for London
Plus: Almost NOBODY uses pay-by-bonk on buses - Visa
Twitch rich as Google flicks $1bn hitch switch, claims snitch
Gameplay streaming biz and search king refuse to deny fresh gobble rumors
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.