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Typing Words with Your Brain

Typing Words with Your Brain

Photo: Mind speller 

A portable, easy-to-wear, intelligent textual and verbal communications prototype device enables people with motoric disabilities (suffering from for example brain paralysis or speech or language disorders) to communicate.

The so called Mind Speller is a EEG(electro-encephalogram)-based device that interprets brain waves to spell words and phrases. It detects and interprets P300 event-related potentials in the EEG-signals of a person that is selecting characters from a display presenting alternate rows and columns of characters. P300 potentials are often used as metrics of cognitive function in decision making processes. However, currently available P300 devices are large, expensive and uncomfortable in use.

But this one uses a portable device, not larger than a matchbox, connected to a cap that contains electrodes located at specific positions on the head to capture the relevant EEG-signals. The electronics in the matchbox contain an ultra-low power 8-channel EEG-chip to process the EEG signals, a commercially available low power microcontroller that digitizes the EEG signals and a low power 2.4GHz radio that transmits the EEG signals wirelessly to a nearby PC. The data is interpreted on the PC by powerful and robust signal processing algorithms developed by the team of Marc Van Hulle at the lab of neuro- and psychophysiology of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven .

Currently, accurate solutions are available on the market to help people to communicate despite severe impairments. These solutions rely on either eye-tracking technology or laser pointing. However, they are subject to long and vulnerable calibration procedures and they are very expensive due to the technology used and the need for tailor-made solutions, according to the researchers.

“This is a generic device that can easily be adjusted to different users. Therefore, it could become a cost-efficient communication solution for people with temporal impairments for whom the existing solutions are too expensive. Moreover, it may help those patients that are not helped with the existing devices driven by motoric activity, as it is based on a different principle, using P300 EEG potentials to read people’s ‘thoughts’”, says Van Hulle.; Source: Interuniversity Microelectronics Centre (IMEC)

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