Medical engineers find a way for people to control homes with their minds

Europe, August 4 2011

Medical engineering company G Tec of Schiedlberg, Austria is developing a technology to do just that as part of a pan-European project called Smart Homes for All. If successful, the innovation can help people with disabilities like Lou Gehrig’s which leaves people severely paralyzed.

Right now, 50 severely disabled people have been trying out the sophisticated, new brain-computer interface (BCI), says New Scientist. “BCIs are definitely beginning to make the transition out of the lab,” Ricardo Chavarriaga, a BCI researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, told New Scientist.

They’re experimenting with the technology to freely explore a virtual world and control an avatar in it. “While the new BCI has been used primarily to allow users to interact with their Second Life avatars, it can be used to give people control over their real-world environment too,” says Big Think.

“It can be used to give people control over their real-world environment too: opening and closing doors, controlling the TV, lights, thermostat and intercom, answering the phone, or even publishing Twitter posts,” according to New Scientist. “It uses electroencephalograph (EEG) caps to pick up brain signals, which it translates into commands that are relayed to controllers in the building, or to navigate and communicate within Second Life and Twitter.”

To activate, all a user has to do is focus his or her attention on the appropriate command icon on their screen (like “lights on”) and an electroencephalograph cap picks up their brain signals.

At the moment, more than 40 icons can be displayed at once on the system, but submenus can allow for even more options. G Tec says they’re planning to add a wheelchair control to give users more mobility.


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