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Science

Computer Control Implants for the Paralyzed 239

Posted by Cliff
from the making-progress dept.
unassimilatible writes: "The Boston Globe is reporting that Cyberkinetics Inc. is about to ask federal regulators for permission to start testing a device that would enable paralyzed people to control computers directly with their brains or possibly help them move their limbs. Initially, the device, implanted into the brains of paralyzed people, will help them control a cursor on a screen or play video games. Researchers believe the technology could one day enable paralyzed people to type, control lights and heating controls, maneuver wheelchairs, or even manipulate robotic arms. I, for one, look forward to playing Stephen Hawking in Unreal Tournament 2004."
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Computer Control Implants for the Paralyzed

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  • Re:What about me!? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DzugZug (52149) on Friday November 07, 2003 @03:59PM (#7419134) Journal
    Why only paralysed people?

    Simple, funding.
    It is a lot easier for researchers to get grant to "cure a disease" than it is to make computer access easier for everyone. It is also easier to get FDA approval for human trials when the goal is to improve quality of life for disabled people than it is when the goal is to make cooler video games.

    Be patient. The medical applications come first, the consumer ones will follow.

  • by heironymouscoward (683461) <heironymouscoward.yahoo@com> on Friday November 07, 2003 @04:01PM (#7419167) Journal
    It will happen....

    It will be used for porn...

    It will be used as a drug...

    It will be used for gaming...

    Finally, it will be used in business.... ...but it will never be used to help the disabled.

    They just don't have any economic power.

  • Re:Hypothetical (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Junta (36770) on Friday November 07, 2003 @05:00PM (#7419791)
    I would think it would take training to get the thing to work the way you want it, I imagine accidently making a robotic arm do something as complex as that is at least as unlikely as accidently doing it with a natural arm.
  • Re:I, for one... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by canajin56 (660655) on Friday November 07, 2003 @05:04PM (#7419830)

    Nerve impulses travel at about 120 m/s. If we assume we are talking about a big person, with 1.0 M from fingertip to brain, we are looking at about 8 ms of delay. Assuming we use some one-way protocol, the delay in using electrons to transmit the signal would be about 0.33 ps (1e-9 seconds) Obviously, the device would have to do some processing before sending the signal, but lets just ignore that. The average human has a reaction time of between 400 ms and 600 ms. Even assuming that gamers have super reaction times of 300 ms, an 8 ms decrease is 2.7%. So it is trivial. On the other hand, it may give an advantage in terms of accuracy. But so what, so does an expensive mouse. I heard that somebody modified Quake to give off audio clues of where everything on screen is, and blind people could kick sighted peoples' asses royally at it.

    To put it in computer terms, the human reaction time bottle neck isn't the IO subsystem, but the CPU ;)

    Something that MAY give an unfair advantage is eye-tracking. Because you don't THINK about looking at something that startles you, you just DO. So if the system can track your eye movements, you will aim WAY faster (Not to mention better) that with a mouse. So how would you fire your gun? Hmmm, Fred Sabberhagen used eye twitches or something in his Berserker novels...the problem with that is, if you are linking the game to your automatic reflexes, you better not be playing a team based game, because you will be shooting before you are even fully aware that you have seen something. (In the Berserker novels, they user lasers that operate on a specific frequency, and wore protective suits that reflect said frequency. So they didn't need to worry about shooting first, identifiying later, since they couldn't hurt one another) I know that have built eye tracking devices that chimps have been able to use to "click" on things like a mouse, by looking at a button and then blinking.

Prediction is very difficult, especially of the future. - Niels Bohr

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