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Brain-Computer Interface Still Going After 1,000 Days

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  • First post (Score:4, Insightful)

    by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@@@gmail...com> on Friday March 25, 2011 @10:18AM (#35611112) Journal

    Because I didn't have to use my hands.

  • Unlike their web server. :p

  • Quality of life? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by symes (835608) on Friday March 25, 2011 @10:38AM (#35611380) Journal

    From the article:

    Results across five consecutive days demonstrate that a neural interface system based on an intracortical microelectrode array can provide repeatable, accurate point-and-click control of a computer interface to an individual with tetraplegia 1000 days after implantation of this sensor.

    This seems pretty impressive, but what the article does not seem to cover is quality of life issues such devises might impact on. I would imagine the improvement in quality of life to someone with tetraplegia could be huge.

    • Re:Quality of life? (Score:5, Informative)

      by CrashandDie (1114135) on Friday March 25, 2011 @10:58AM (#35611596)

      Not really. My girlfriend takes care of people who suffer of tetraplegia (C1 up to C6), and unless we can use those interfaces to have robots dress them, cook for them, undress them, change their catheter bag, wash them, iron their bedding (to prevent sores), etc, a neural interface would be of pretty limited use.

      Sure, it could allow them to communicate, use a computer, or even use the phone / telly, but from what I've seen, few people with such a level of handicap have the drive to do those activities on a regular basis.

      Remember that these are people who can't sit up without help we're talking about. Twitter is not one of their priorities, from what I can tell.

      • by royallthefourth (1564389) <royallthefourth@gmail.com> on Friday March 25, 2011 @11:09AM (#35611722)

        Surely being able to do something as mundane as posting on Slashdot (which this may allow) would raise their level of social interaction a great deal over their baseline, even if it tends to be unsatisfying. Not only that, they could do more like search for ebooks to read, build a playlist of music and start/stop it, or even program a sequencer and synthesizer to play their own music.
        Maybe even after reading the right ebooks someone may teach himself to program or do digital art or learn a foreign language and use these skills to find a job that could be done remotely.
        There's a lot of things that can be done with just a mouse these days.

        It's far from independence and normal interaction, but it's got to be a much bigger set of options than what they've got right now.
        On the other hand, it's all just conjecture on my part.

        • Think of this as a start. Maybe with advancements they can extend the control to other things. Maybe there is a way to implant something to let these people move their own body. You can for the extreme and do a body prosthetic a la Ghost in Shell. Even if we had the technology to do a full body prosthetic I am not sure humanity is ready to accept it yet.

          • by sznupi (719324)

            Even if we had the technology to do a full body prosthetic I am not sure humanity is ready to accept it yet.

            And sadly, it would be probably a possibility mostly limited, for some time at least [*], to those whose brains are still highly pliable. Meaning mostly the young. Oh, imagine the moral panic caused by that one...

            * If I were to guess, it will be limited like that for all of our (perceptibly ever faster nearing to an end at that point) lifetime - talk about frustrating.

        • If I was tetraplegia and I didn't have the ability to use computers like everyone else I would probably rather die. At least you could play games and sort of escape reality. You could also work, and have some sense of purpose like you said.
        • Re:Quality of life? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by thesandtiger (819476) on Friday March 25, 2011 @04:01PM (#35615888)

          Being able to make their bed raise/lower, change a channel, turn on/off/up/down the AC, close shades, turn on/off the television/radio, change channels/stations, surf the web, play some games, chat (slowly) with others online, and any number of other uses would be pretty huge I'd think. And easy to connect to a computer. And would lead to big QoL improvements; there's a pretty GIGANTIC difference between being able to do something yourself and needing to ask a caretaker to do it for you.

          I've a friend who is severely handicapped (thalidomide) and is 90% confined to a wheel chair as a result. He has little devices his dad made for him that allow him to do some tasks he previously had to ask for help on. We met through a role-playing gamer's group, and when we all brainstormed a way to set him up with a gadget that would let him pick and roll his own dice he was pretty freaking happy about it because it meant he no longer had to ask someone to do it for him.

          Hell, even in my own life, and I am fortunately quite able bodied, when I've had times where I wasn't able to do things for myself I would often choose to suffer in silence rather than ask a caretaker to do something for me because I didn't want to bother them. This can be huge.

          • by antdude (79039)

            I have multiple disabilites too. Computers + Communication (bulletin board systems/BBS' and Internet) are big gifts to me. I can't talk and hear well due to my impediments, but I can type and read.

      • Remember that these are people who can't sit up without help we're talking about. Twitter is not one of their priorities, from what I can tell.

        I think you're missing the point. They can't sit up without help, but with this interface, they can use a computer without help. Painfully slow, sure, but hey, I think they have some time on their hands. I mean, they're not going anywhere.

        They still need help in the real world, but I think they'd still use it quite a bit in between rousing games of stare-at-paint and yell-at-nurse.

      • by denzacar (181829)

        after 1,000 days a woman who has no functional use of her limbs and is unable to speak can reliably control a cursor on a computer screen using only the intended movement of her hand

        Substitute "a cursor on a computer screen" with "exoskeleton robotic suit" [cyberdyne.jp] and you are way beyond "pretty limited use".

      • by bratloaf (1287954)

        I assume (Without RFA) that this interface could be used in some way to pass simple commands. Oh, like opcodes say. Something the user could be trained to do.

        If so, they why couldnt this interface be used to control a robot-arm RIGHT NOW. Or any number of other, more special purpose robotics/devices? I.e. Television, radio, tilt bed, ring nurse for drink, "Im Wet" etc. etc.

        I think you are shortsighted at the possibilities here. Just having a successful interface that doesn't burn out the neurons after THREE

        • the robot arm I've already seen implemented, there's a few videos floting around with monkeys with such implants using a robotic arm to feed themselves with their own arms restrained.

      • by morgauxo (974071)
        I don't know about complex tasks like dressing and feeding but I would think this interface alone should be used to allow some movement. If it can be wired into a computer to act as a mouse surely there is enough control there that it could be used to raise/lower a recliner. Maybe it could even be used to drive an electric wheelchair? It seems almost cruel to me that they have this wonderful implant in her but they only chose to use it as a mouse.

        Of course... it can probably only be used for one kind o
        • by Arterion (941661)

          Exactly. A mouse is actually extremely versatile -- she can use the mouse to click buttons to operate anything.

      • ...unless we can use those interfaces to have robots dress them, cook for them, undress them, change their catheter bag, wash them, iron their bedding (to prevent sores), etc...

        Well, to be fair, those robots aren't going to exist in any practical manner until the victim has some means to control them. A proper handicap-aid system that allows a victims of a particular debilitating condition (MS, ALS, tetraplegia, etc.) to function like they did before they were disabled is still a long ways off, yes. But developing neural interfaces alongside appropriately sensitive hardware for use in the types of applications you are describing is necessary to get there one day. Technology of t

      • you really think something like this wouldn't be any use to someone who is totally paralysed?

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IoRVZgLaXus [youtube.com]
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gnWSah4RD2E [youtube.com]

        you might not be able to change your underwear but being able to scratch your nose, change the channel or raise/lower their bed would be kinda a big deal when you're totally paralysed.

        long term it might even be possible to hook the output of such an interface up to something like this:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYE7eB6fksM [youtube.com]

        to allo

      • by pclminion (145572)
        So it's not worth it because it only really helps the tetraplegic, not the people caring for the tetraplegic? What the hell?
      • by sjames (1099)

        Is it that they don't want to do those things or that they can't psychologically afford to want to do those things?

        It seems likely though that if they can operate a mouse with it, they could probably operate an arm at least.

    • by alienzed (732782)
      Yeah! Finally they can read Slashdot and play Quake Live.
  • If it's working on a long time period, then when will this technology get common, and when are we going to see useful application(like real new computing interfaces or remotely controlled)? Does it mean that we'll be able to make artificial arms soon? Who can travel to the future and tell me if it's full of cyborgs?
    • by socz (1057222)
      It's going to be like Ghost in the Shell where we can plug in and do all you're saying and more! Can't wait for it yeah!!!
  • ...but it needs to last a lifetime.
  • So... that's 2.7 years... but the thing was implanted in 2005 according to TFA. Is this top secret somehow? Has any new development happened in the meantime? Has the life expectancy of this device been improved?

    All in all, this article doesn't give much information about the current level of brain interface technology... it's about three years out of date.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      So... that's 2.7 years... but the thing was implanted in 2005 according to TFA

      "Well, not 1,000 days in a row" - Scientist

    • by Zerth (26112)

      They only discuss the first 1000 days because that data has been released through a journal. All data after that has only been discussed at conferences and hasn't yet gone through peer review.

    • Re:1000 days (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Vesvvi (1501135) on Friday March 25, 2011 @11:01AM (#35611638)

      The last time I saw a presentation on brain interface technology was almost a year ago, so I'm not 100% current either, but the current state of the art isn't that great.

      The fundamental problem is that the brain/hardware interface breaks down with time. In simple terms, it looks like the extremely soft brain tissue doesn't stand up to being in hard contact with the rigid electrodes (there's a nice picture in the article: they look like meat tenderizers). In the long run, there is formation of a buffer zone of unusable tissue between viable brain matter and the electrodes which blocks the signal. This is an area of substantial research: trying to build nanomaterials that serve as a good physical buffer between the brain and electrode, which is a non-trivial problem. Success in this goal can directly lead to longer-lived devices.

      So when they say

      no evidence has emerged of any fundamental incompatibility between the sensor and the brain

      that's not entirely honest. Yes, their sensor still works fine but they still need to adapt it to be more brain-compatible. My personal guess is that this one patient just happens to have a lucky brain composition/response.

      • by hitmark (640295)

        And then comes the next trick, being able to feed data back...

      • That is why they said "fundamental incompatibility" instead of just "incompatibility".

      • by morgauxo (974071)
        I read a while ago that researches were making neurons communicate with light. When the neuron fires it glows. Then the sensor doesn't HAVE to touch the brain directly.
  • Looking at the picture, it looks like that poor S3 has a massive SCSI cable connected to her head. It looks really awkward and uncomfortable. They couldn't use USB? Or Bluetooth? If you wiggle the cable... can she feel the implant shift slightly in her BRAIN?! I'm going to stop, I'm freaking myself out.
    • If you think that's terrifying, think about being trapped in your body without being able itch, wipe, or feed yourself.
      Yeah, it's probably not the most comfortable, but it's a step up. Kinda like giving a lame person the ability to run again, but only in high heels. You work with what you've got.
    • Actually, if my understanding of physiology is correct, the brain itself does not have pain receptors. So, while she should be able to feel it on her scalp, she would not be able to feel it moving around inside her head.
    • by Sulphur (1548251)

      Looking at the picture, it looks like that poor S3 has a massive SCSI cable connected to her head. It looks really awkward and uncomfortable. They couldn't use USB? Or Bluetooth?

      If you wiggle the cable... can she feel the implant shift slightly in her BRAIN?!

      I'm going to stop, I'm freaking myself out.

      How about an arm interface?

  • Sign me up. I will pwn you all at CS!
  • Big Deal, the government's intelligence flat-lined back in 1913, and still going strong?!
  • "Remember BrainGate?"

    Are the climate skeptics now denying that they have brains?

  • "Some on-screen targets were as small as the effective area of a Microsoft Word menu icon."

    They should have used KDE. It is vectorized and can be scaled efficiently. :|

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