Neurosurgeons at the Stanford University School of Medicine have just rolled out the fastest mind-reading typing tool yet. It can compose between six to eight words per minute and give a voice to those who are paralyzed due to disease or serious injury.
Scientists have tested the machines with three subjects -- one with a spinal cord injury and two who suffer from the degenerative disease ALS -- and found the results to be faster than any brain-machine interface that's been developed thus far. "It's two to four times faster than what was previously achieved [using a brain-machine interface]," Dr. Jaimie Henderson, a neurosurgeon who led the team behind the machine's development, explained to NewScientist.
The types of machines commonly used to help those suffering from paralysis or other disabilities generally rely on some form of hand, cheek, or eye movement. That's the tech that allows guys like Stephen Hawking to speak, write, give lectures, or surf the Internet, among other things. Devices that use a brain-machine interface, on the other hand, "translat[e] neural activity into control signals for assistive communication devices," according to Stanford's report published in the academic journal eLife. It reads your mind and lets you select letters to type.
If you've ever used a TV remote (here's lookin' at you, Vizio) or video game directional pad to manually sift through an onscreen QWERTY keyboard and select individual letters one at a time, this process might look familiar to you. It's cumbersome and frustrating to use, but for this technology, it's the fastest method we've come up with yet. Here's a video that shows how the tech works.