Nov 26, 2012— read in full
Brain scanner could help Stephen Hawking to communicate
Jul 10, 2012
Prof Hawking has motor neurone disease, which causes people to lose the ability to move their bodies. When he lost his speech, he began communicating with a speech synthesizer controlled by his thumb. As the condition got worse, he had to change to controlling the synthesizer by moving his cheek.
For Prof Hawking and people in similar situations, the worry is that one day they might not be able to move enough to communicate at all. Professor Philip Low thinks he has a solution: a headset which detects brain activity.
Although similar technology has been tested before, and even used to make brain-powered toys, it hasn't been reliable enough for this kind of use. The problem is that the skull blocks out the brainwaves created by consciously thinking about something, so users have to control the devices by trying to 'think calm thoughts' or 'think about nothing' instead.
Prof Low says he has found a way to pick out the missing signals. This would let Prof Hawking control his computer by thinking about moving his arm, for example.
In the meantime, the computer chip company Intel is working on improving the system Prof Hawking currently uses so that he can speak faster.
What other uses could the brain-scanning technology have? Share your thoughts by posting a comment using the link below.