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Thanks to a new system called BrainGate2, three people who are suffering from paralysis from the neck down are now able to text, browse the internet, and listen to music. This could be of a great help to the people suffering from a neurologic disease.
The system comprises of micro-electrodes that are implanted within the brain which decode the neural signals with the intention to move a limb. The trio in the trial had grids implanted over part of their motor cortex. The patterns are then sent to a virtual mouse that is paired with a tablet.
The participants were able to perform a few digital tasks that included sending emails and browsing the internet. One of them managed to order groceries online and also played a tune through a digital piano. She also said that "the tablet became second nature to me, very intuitive." The system also enabled the participants to chat with one another in real time.
The brain-computer interface technology has been around for a few years now. What's new in this study is that BrainGate2 lets users navigate completely. Few more updates and tweaks will make the system even more accessible to people with disabilities.
According to the study report, "Participants navigated the user interface comfortably despite not having access to all of the gestures commonly used on a tablet (e.g., click and drag, multitouch). This precluded certain functions such as scrolling up and down on the tablet web browser. Some of these limitations would have been overcome by enabling accessibility features found in the Android OS or third-party programs. Additionally, modifying the Android OS keyboard layout as we have done in prior reports would have likely increased typing rates."