Humans controlling machines with just their thoughts may sound like something from a sci-fi movie, but it is a reality through brain-computer interfaces.
Three drones lift off, filling the air with their tell-tale buzz; they slowly sail upward as a fleet—evenly spaced and level—and then hover aloft.
On the ground, the pilot isn’t holding a remote control – in fact, he isn’t holding anything – he’s just sitting there calmly, controlling the drones with his mind.
This isn’t science fiction. This is a YouTube video from 2016.
In the clip, a mechanical engineering Ph.D. candidate at Arizona State University (ASU) sports an odd piece of headwear.
It looks a bit like a swim cap, but with nearly 130 colourful sensors that detect the student’s brain waves and these devices let him move the drones simply by thinking directional commands: up, down, left, right.
Today, this type of brain-computer interface (BCI) technology is still being developed and there is hope for people with disabilities when it comes to communication and the fleet of mind-controlled drones is just but one real-life example of BCIs.
For many individuals with paralysis, the ability to communicate and interact with the world can be severely limited.
However, recent advancements in brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) have shown promising results in helping individuals with paralysis control computers, prosthetic devices, and even their own bodies.
Brain-computer interfaces are devices that allow individuals to control technology using their thoughts.
To explain the Brain-Computer Interface (BCIs) better, the best example is that of 42-year-old Mark from Iron Man 3. He has a suit built to respond to Tony Stark’s thoughts.
According to scienceabc.com a brain-computer interface acquires signals from the brain, analyses them and translates them into commands and these commands are then translated into a signal from peripheral devices to provide the desired output.
The primary goal of a BCI is to restore useful function for people who have developed neuromuscular disorders, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, cerebral palsy, stroke, or spinal cord injury.
There are two kinds of Brain-Computer Interface and these are; non-invasive brain-computer interface and invasive brain-computer interface.
BCIs work by detecting and translating patterns of brain activity into computer commands, allowing individuals to control computer cursors, robotic arms, and even their own paralyzed limbs.
For individuals with paralysis, BCIs can provide new options for communication and mobility.
Some BCIs are designed to control assistive technologies, such as prosthetic limbs or wheelchairs, while others can be used to control communication devices, such as text-to-speech software.
In addition to assisting with communication, BCIs can also be used to restore movement in individuals with paralysis.
Researchers have developed BCIs that can help individuals with spinal cord injuries to regain movement in their arms and hands.
These BCIs work by decoding the individual’s intentions to move and stimulating the muscles to produce the desired movement.
BCIs have the potential to significantly improve the quality of life for individuals with paralysis, providing new options for communication, mobility, and independence.
Some of the potential benefits of BCIs for patients with paralysis include; improved Communication as BCIs can provide new options for communication, allowing individuals with paralysis to express their thoughts and feelings.
The other potential benefit is that of increased Independence because BCIs can provide new options for mobility and independence, allowing individuals with paralysis to perform tasks that were previously impossible.
They can also improved the quality of life since the BCIs can provide a sense of control and empowerment for individuals with paralysis, improving their overall quality of life.
BCIs can also restore movement in individuals with paralysis to have the potential to greatly improve their ability to perform everyday tasks and participate in activities.
However, there are challenges and limitations of BCIs for Patients with Paralysis for while BCIs hold great promise for individuals with paralysis, there are also challenges and limitations to consider.
Some of the challenges and limitations of BCIs for patients with paralysis include cost since BCIs can be expensive, therefore making them inaccessible to many individuals with paralysis.
The other challenge is for need for training and Support as Using a BCI requires extensive training and support, which may not be readily available.
Limitations in Functionality
While BCIs have shown promising results, they are still limited in their functionality and may not work for all individuals with paralysis.
Brain-computer interfaces hold great promise for individuals with paralysis, providing new options for communication, mobility, and independence.
While there are still challenges and limitations to consider, ongoing research is exploring the potential of BCIs for restoring movement and improving the quality of life for individuals with paralysis.
Remember, BCIs are not a substitute for traditional medical treatments, but they can be a valuable addition to a comprehensive treatment plan.
“On the ground, the pilot isn’t holding a remote control – in fact, he isn’t holding anything – he’s just sitting there calmly, controlling the drones with his mind.”