A few weeks back, we reported that Samsung is working on a system to help disabled individuals operate televisions with their brains.
Now, a similar tech has come to light, and this one lets people text friends, stream music, and browse the internet.
This is not a concept, but a real thing that helped three paralyzed individuals perform these tasks.
What is this technology?
The technology in question is a brain-computer interface called BrainGate2.
It involves an array of microelectrodes, which, when implanted into the brain, detect neural signals associated with the intent to move a limb - in real time.
Then, they transmit these signals or neural activity patterns to an output device, producing the desired action.
Three subjects used it for texting, surfing internet
Three individuals with paralysis below the neck were able to use the system.
They had the electrodes implanted over motor cortex - a part of the brain responsible for controlling movement.
Then, as they thought about moving a cursor on a tablet, the system picked-up neural signals associated with that intent and transmitted them to a virtual mouse wirelessly paired with the tablet.
Then, they were able to handle common digital tasks
After this, the participants were able to perform as many as seven digital activities on the tablet with their intentions and the virtual mouse.
This included tasks like sending texts, emails, streaming music, and surfing the internet.
One participant, as Science News reported, ordered groceries, looked up orchid care, and played digital piano using the tech, while others texted friends or chatted among themselves.
Also, the tablets used were not modified
The tablets used in these trials were not modified with features to make navigation easier for the subjects.
These were regular devices with standard settings, which prevented the users from accessing all gestures such as those for scrolling up and down on a page.
However, despite all that, they navigated the interface comfortably, the researchers said in the study published in PLOS One.
With proper software, things could get much better
"Some of these limitations would have been overcome by enabling accessibility features found in the Android OS or third-party programs," the researchers stated. "Additionally, modifying the Android OS keyboard layout as we have done in prior reports would have likely increased typing rates."
Still, there's a long way to go
Having said this, it is important to note that the technology is still far from use and would need further development to be commercially accessible.
However, when that happens, the technology could largely impact the lives of those suffering from limb loss, critical disabilities or neurological diseases by giving them a way to connect and communicate on their own.