The first commercially available Brain Computer Interface
By Mike Hanlon
March 10, 2007
March 11, 2007 The evolution of the Computer Human interface may seem to be rooted in the infernal keyboard and its recent traveling companion, the mouse, but much work is being done in the areas of virtual worlds, voice recognition, handwriting recognition and gesture recognition to give us a new paradigm of computing. It now appears we are on the edge of another brave new virtual world – the direct interface between the brain and the computer is here.
One of the Holy Grail's of research, there are many such projects going on around the world at present. Now the German g.tec (Guger Technologies) group has taken the technology out of the lab and into the real world with a complete BCI kit, and amazingly, there's also a kit for a pocket PC - a super-low-weight biosignal recording system "g.MOBIlab" is used to measure the EEG and the data processing, analysis and pattern recognition are performed on a commercially available Pocket PC or in this case, your windows PC.
The first BCI system will enable the composition and sending of messages, and control of a computer game. There's also an invasive (implanted) option still being trialled in the laboratory – this is significantly more effective abnd the system can already accept and process input from both the embedded array and the cap array. Though the first work in the area is focused on enabling paralyzed humans to communicate far more freely, the potential to enhance one's communications quite freely is clearly not that far away.
There's also the potential unlocked by putting such a device into the hands of thousands of eager and capable amateurs who will no doubt broaden the understanding of the human mind with their pursuits. The BCI system is nominated for the 2007 European ICT Grand Prize.
In several research projects patients have used the device to successfully produce control signals to select letters and words or to control specific functions of a wheelchair or prosthetic device.
The activity of the brain is recorded with a EEG (Electroencephalogram) electrodes mounted onto the surface of the head.g.tec has developed a sophisticated biosignal amplifier which allows the acquisition of the signals with very high accuracy. The amplifier is plugged into a USB port of the notebook for signal acquisition. The big advantage of the ECoG recordings is the better signal quality. Even a single electrode overlaying a specific brain region can generate a reliable control signal for a BCI system. On the surface of the head the EEG measures the activity of millions of neuron to extract the control signal.