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People who are "locked in," meaning they are fully paralyzed, have an incredibly difficult time communicating. Sometimes blinking is used, or a voice system. Often, the learning process is drawn out and complicated.
Thankfully, great strides in technology have been made, bringing us closer to a solution and help paralyzed individuals.
A new study shows that a system can be used to allow paralyzed people to 'handwrite' using their minds.
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Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) allow people to control computer inputs with their minds. While the technology is in its very early stages, it is showing great promise. So much so that even Elon Musk has joined the party, promising an intelligence-enhancing revolution that will change the way we interact with the virtual world.
As Sciencemag.org reports, there has already been some success in using BCIs to allow paralyzed users to write.
By implanting electrodes in the part of the brain associated with motion, researchers have made some paralyzed patients move a cursor and select onscreen letters, using only their thoughts.
Using this method, the patients were shown to be able to type up to 39 characters per minute.
While that is undeniably impressive, it is still about three times slower than the average person takes to write the same amount of characters using handwriting.
In new experiments, detailed at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, a volunteer who is paralyzed from the neck down imagined moving his arm in a writing motion.
The BCI tracked the user's brain activity and was able to decipher the trajectory of the imagined hand movements. A neural network was then used to interpret what letter of the alphabet he was imagining.
This resulted in the images of the letters shown above.
As the findings show, the BCI was able to interpret the user's intended letters with an accuracy of approximately 95 percent.
The team, led by F.R. Willet, also reported that he was able to write at a speed of about 66 characters per minute.
This is incredible progress in a technology that could improve the lives of many by allowing them to communicate with greater ease.
The scientists say they believe the speed of writing will increase when more users practice. The aim is to ultimately use their research to better understand how the brain interprets fine motor movements.