I watched the first half of the video above before having to start it over from the beginning. I needed to confirm what my eyes were seeing.
Yes, that’s a computer and yes it’s plugged directly into the top of that woman’s head. Like an electrical outlet, except not.
I had been paying attention to what was being said. After all, the video is about a noble project by Stanford University researchers who developed a way for people with paralysis—caused by anything from Lou Gehrig’s disease to a spinal chord injury—to be able to type and communicate. The school says the method it developed lets people do this at “the highest speeds and accuracy levels reported to date.”
Pill-sized electrodes were placed in the subjects’ brains to record signals from the motor cortex—the region of the brain that control muscle movement. From here, things get interesting.
The researchers developed a sort of power cable that’s connected to a computer on one end and then literally plugged into the subject’s brain on the other end—right into the top of their head. Signals from the person’s motor cortex were transmitted via the cable to the computer where they were translated by algorithms into point-and-click commands.
As you can see in the video, those commands guide a cursor over characters on an on-screen keyboard. Enabling people who suffer from paralysis to communicate is amazing.
This is far from the only example of invasive brain-computer interfaces developed over the years. Regardless, seeing a person with what appears to be an electrical outlet on their skull is pretty far out there.
See? That’s an older example of another type of brain-computer interface, one that’s designed to help people see. Wild, isn’t it?