What would you say if you could communicate without using your voice or hand gestures but only your mind alone? It sounds like Professor X from X-Men or the often questioned “mind reading” that fortune tellers claim they possess. However, we may not be far from being able to communicate with just our mind as Standford University Scientists are testing a groundbreaking device called the iBrain on Stephen Hawking in an attempt to “hack” into his brain to allow him to communicate without his clicker or voice box.
Who is Stephen Hawkings?
Stephen Hawking is a very famous theoretical physicist and author. Some of his famous works to date included providing theorems regarding the occurrence of gravitational singularities in the framework of general relativity, and the theoretical prediction that black holes should emit radiation, which is today known as Hawking radiation . However, he is also known for his motor neurone disease akin to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which has almost completely paralyzed him thus only allowing him to able to communicate through a speech generating device. However, as his condition worsens he is now having difficulty using the device and has now resorted to a cheek device which takes much longer to transmit into speech.
What is the iBrain?
Dr. Phillip Low, CEO of Neurovigil, and lead scientist at Standford has developed with his team of scientists the iBrain. The iBrain is designed to take brainwaves and have them be communicated on a computer.
“This is very exciting for us because it allows us to have a window into the brain. We’re building technology that will allow humanity to have access to the human brain for the first time.” Low stated.
“The emergence of such biomarkers opens the possibility to link intended movements to a library of words and convert them into speech, thus providing motor neurone sufferers with communication tools more dependent on the brain than on the body.” Low Continued.
Dr. Low has even met with Stephen Hawkings last year to test out the device. Low placed the iBrain device on Hawkings and asked him to use as much of his brain power to imagine he was squeezing a ball in his hand. The aim was to see whether his thoughts could be transcribed into words, through a series of signals.
There has been much development with the iBrain since then and it has already been proposed as an alternative to sleep labs. The researchers behind it believe it may even be able to, one day, help with the treatment of depression and even autism.
Who knows, maybe one day, the iBrain device will allow us to communicate like Profesor X.