Thursday, April 21, 2016

Latest Cyborg Leap Forward

Medical researchers at Ohio State University have invented a device called NeuroLife, which enables a quadriplegic to move his hand:

Brain Implant

One end of the device is implanted in his brain, with external cables that run down to his hand, bypassing the damaged spinal cord. NeuroLife transmits nerve impulses generated by algorithms based on recordings of activity in the motor cortex (if I understand the explanation correctly). The experimental subject has regained enough precision control of his hand muscles to pick up objects and even play video games. I wonder whether he can use a keyboard; the article doesn't say. That would really be a leap forward. (I know about speech-to-text programs, of course, and many people seem to love them; if I were paralyzed, though, I would have a lot of trouble "writing" by dictation and would wish for the ability to type.)

This technique took a decade of development, and the patient had to undergo months of training to get the full benefit. So it won't be an instant fix, even when it becomes publicly available (and the article doesn't mention when that might happen). Still, it's a wondrous achievement.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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