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Biotech Science

Brain Controlled Computing a Reality 299

pchernyakov writes "Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems told attendees at the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation annual conference that a 25-year-old quadriplegic with wires run from 100 tiny sensors implanted in his brain and out to a computer can use his thoughts to control a computer well enough to operate a TV, open e-mail and play Pong with 70% accuracy."
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Brain Controlled Computing a Reality

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  • Great! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by freeze128 ( 544774 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @05:38PM (#10517829)
    Now connect it to a robot, and have a virtual human.
  • How about.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HBI ( 604924 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @05:43PM (#10517890) Journal
    wiring it up to an electric wheelchair?

    Wireless, perhaps?

    Robotic arm on said wheelchair?

    Seems they aren't plumbing the feasible current possibilities yet, and i'm not even talking about artificial legs and arms. Yet.
  • by Andorion ( 526481 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @05:47PM (#10517932)
    I'm more interested in using brain-implanted computers to shift the communication paradigm - imagine being able to instantly and wirelessly communicate with anyone, the increased bandwidth and throughput from regular spoken or written word would be phenomenal.
  • by syrinje ( 781614 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @05:48PM (#10517946)
    This combination of medical science and computer technology is long overdue in its use in improving the quality of life of people afflicted with different kinds of motor function degradation.

    One possible reason why such advances seem to take longer than for the pacific tectonic plate to move a mile is the hemlock cup with its swill of politics, corporate greed, litigation and religion. Between them, they throw up enough obstacles in the path of medical advancement - sometimes justifiable on ethical grounds - but mostly to advance to their own selfish power plays.

    Makes one wonder though what the side-effects would be though - would the procedure be safe for someone like Stephen Hawkins? Would the hundreds of electrodes somehow kill something off making time travel impossible? (oh! wait - he already reneged on that ....). But seriously, some study into the invasiveness quotient of this would surely be welcome.

    As a parting thought - is any one else surprised that Pong made it to the top 3 list of things to do?! whatever happened to pr0n!?

    Obligatory sign-off - its futile - you will be assimilated.

  • by Mysticalfruit ( 533341 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @05:55PM (#10518019) Homepage Journal
    I think I'd be a late adopter after all the kinks have been worked out of the wetware/software interface. You know, the terrible seizures, adware/spyware being uploaded into your ceriberal cortex so your driving along and suddenly you get a big popup right in your field of vision and you crash your car, etc.
  • by StateOfTheUnion ( 762194 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @05:56PM (#10518035) Homepage
    can use his thoughts to control a computer well enough to operate a TV, open e-mail and play Pong with 70% accuracy

    The quote really sounds impressive the way they wrote it, but it seems like the patient is using only three degrees of freedom in their control.

    Use the mind to make the paddle go up . . . use the mind to make the paddle go down . . .

    Use the mind to make the channel go up . . . Use the mind to make the channel go down. Use the mind to switch to volume and repeat . . .

    Use the mind to select next email . . . Use the mind to open the email . . . Use the mind to close the email.

    I count three degrees of freedom . . . This is no different than the guy that was wired up to use his mind to scroll through and select letters to write emails. It sounds good when one says he can play pong, check email and and control a TV, but the truth is that I think that using the mind to control with three degrees of freedom has been done before. This just sounds better because they framed the control in terms of some common tasks.

  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @05:57PM (#10518057) Homepage Journal
    Everyone separated by distance from the subject of their work is disabled, if by meters, miles, or a few inches of glass. Necessity is the mother of invention, and the needs of the conventionally disabled are driving augmentation for all of us. The resulting increased capacities might make all of us, prebionics, look roughly equally disabled.
  • by sam_handelman ( 519767 ) <> on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @05:58PM (#10518064) Homepage Journal
    The joke is in reference to the expanded pilot episode of the original Star Trek. Turn in your membership card, former nerd #774728.

    There are always some wrinkles to be worked out of the first generation of any new technology.

    Getting the latest generation of graphics card and finding that it somehow interferes with playback of my old .viv movies is a nuisance.

    Getting the latest generation of cyberware and finding that it causes epileptic seizures in combination with the interference with my cordless phone? Rather more than a nuisance.

    All things considered, I'll let the parapelegics handle the alpha testing for all this stuff, thank you very much.
  • by LinuxHam ( 52232 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @06:10PM (#10518176) Homepage Journal
    I've told her on numerous occasions.. "look, I don't care if I end up as just a brain in a jar with thousands of wires coming out of it, I WANT TO LIVE FOREVER!" Besides, with the CCD retinas out now that inject data directly into the optic nerve, it'll be just a matter of time before vision can be completely maintained for the sighted. We could end up in labs, just rows and rows of brains in jars, all wired up and experiencing artificial vision and life experiences presented by some massive computer system. Gee I wonder where I've heard THAT before.

    Come on! Who's with me!?!?!
  • by papercrane ( 817404 ) <> on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @06:16PM (#10518214) Homepage
    And we'd be like a hive-mind. Faster communication means less individuality. Look at what the TV, telephone, and Internet have done to cultural diverity.
  • by KitFox ( 712780 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @06:19PM (#10518247)
    If you consider that effectively all human input into a computer is brain-controlled. It's just a matter of what transmission method is being used. In normal cases, such as most of us here, the transmission medium is (simplified): Brain to fingers to keyboard to computer.

    The big thing about this is that now they are working to take out the fingers and keyboard part, and make it "Brain to Computer."

    Honestly, I see a few frightening issues, though. For example, I can walk up to my computer on a dry day, sit down, grab the mouse, and send a static shock through the USB port, effectively freezing the USB capability. Now, what happens if somebody is using this wonderful new technology, and gets a static shock straight to the brain? Or, for even more fun, if there is no isolation circuit in the input system, what happens if the power supply to the computer blows and applies a comfortable DC voltage directly to your brain?

    The entire "In" part is what bugs me. "In his skull", "In his brain"... It makes it seem more exciting, but honestly, IMHO it opens up so many more possible problems. Just the fact that you need to get brain surgery to just START to use this thing is enough as it is. If it were non-invasive, I'd be a lot more impressed.

  • Computer Potatoes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by metalligoth ( 672285 ) <> on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @06:20PM (#10518261)

    I worry about the opposite of this situation... People wired to control their computers that cease to use their muscles for anything else. You think couch potatoes are bad? Just imagine someone hard wired to the Net 24/7.

    We already are at the point where we can give the blind 25 pixel vision. directly through the brain. Just wait until that increases to 1024 x 768, and you can bring in other, erm, sensations as well. Welcome to the new couch potato. They won't go anywhere!

  • by TheKidWho ( 705796 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @06:55PM (#10518599)
    More like DON'T use IE. I use Windows xp, and I have zero spyware on my computer, at least thats what ad aware says every time I run it. The secret is using Firefox ;-)
  • Re:Porn (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Ann O'Nymous-Coward ( 460094 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @06:57PM (#10518609)
    You can do that now, you know.

    Yes, you can.

    It's called sex.

    Put the keyboard and mouse down, back away from the computer...
  • by chinmay7 ( 776189 ) on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @07:52PM (#10519009) Homepage
    Because if you think of it- a human body is nothing more than a fantasticaly complex machine.

    In fact, if you really think about it, the most important problem associated with aging is not the loss of physical faculties. I'd say we've got most of the physical [as opposed to mental] diseases more or less beat, if you project from life expectancy and health data, within the next few decades, humans [at least in the developed world] will routinely cross 100-120 yrs in a physically fit state.

    Neural degeneration OTOH, - whether natural or on account of a disease - is a very tough nut to crack. For on thing, we don't understand the full complexity of the brain, and more significantly, neurons have a stady rate of death, and zero regenration.

    The real fountain of youth would require tackling this problem, which the neural tap doesn't do anything about.

    Downloading the mind on silicon, on the other hand, would be something! :)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 13, 2004 @09:02PM (#10519551)
    A lot of people do have trouble selecting what comes out of their mouth, though.
  • by Chandon Seldon ( 43083 ) on Thursday October 14, 2004 @12:09AM (#10520684) Homepage
    It looked like the parent was talking about 3 separate commands "Up / Down / Next". You're talking about 5 separate commands (Up, Down, Left, Right, Click), four of which are analog / high resolution.

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