Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Just think of how lazy people will get after this becomes popular...


Oh yes, you know that this isn't just going to be a limited technology... reported the story in an article titled "Paralysed Man Sends Email With Thought". For those of you without a subscription here are some excerpts from the article:

Controlling objects with thought is becoming a reality.

An pill-sized brain chip has allowed a quadriplegic man to check e-mail and play computer games using his thoughts. The device can tap into a hundred neurons at a time, and is the most sophisticated such implant tested in humans so far.

Many paralysed people control computers with their eyes or tongue. But muscle function limits these techniques, and they require a lot of training. For over a decade researchers have been trying to find a way to tap directly into thoughts.

In June 2004, surgeons implanted a device containing 100 electrodes into the motor cortex of a 24-year-old quadriplegic. The device, called the BrainGate, was developed by the company Cyberkinetics, based in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Each electrode taps into a neuron in the patient's brain.

The BrainGate allowed the patient to control a computer or television using his mind, even when doing other things at the same time. Researchers report for example that he could control his television while talking and moving his head.

The team now plans to implant devices into four more patients.

...The tiny sensor consists of an array of 100 electrodes to capture signals from the brain.

...Rival teams are building devices to read brain activity without touching neurons. Neural Signals, based in Atlanta, has patented a conductive skull screw that sits outside the brain, just under the skull. Other researchers are developing non-invasive technologies, for example using an electroencephalogram to read a patient's thoughts.

This whole thing reminds me of an episode of The Outer Limits called 'Stream Of Consciousness'.

It's about a future where everybody has a neural implant that allows them to access access the stream, which is basically a collection of all knowledge and also a communication device. Everywhere (over doorways, on poles along sidewalks, etc.) there are these 'towers' that acted as relays so that you would always be in touch with the stream.

The main character is a guy who suffered a brain injury when he was a kid, making him unable have an implant anymore. So he has spent his whole life poring over books just to stay afloat (he had to teach himself how to read too, since all books are relics by this time).

He lives in a basement which has basically become a mini-library, and rarely goes out because not having an implant makes it difficult or impossible to get around. For example, he finally gets the courage to go out to dinner with the girl he likes. When they arrive he's mortally embarrassed because they don't have his food ready. Why would that be embarrassing? Well everybody orders the food in advance with their thoughts, via the stream. There's no way for him to order when they get there either, since paper menus have become a thing of the past.

That sort of technology looked really out there when I saw the episode a couple years ago, but maybe that future isn't as far off as it seemed then. While in today's world it's only the handicapped that use a BrainGate, in the future the handicapped may be those who don't use it.


'Brain Chip Reads Man's Thoughts'


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