A new brain-to-tablet interface that allows "locked-in" people to interact with the world sounds miraculous. The volunteers and scientists who are developing this technology deserve recognition and thanks.
The team's breakthrough moment came when they realized their point-and-click cursor system was similar to finger tapping on a touchscreen, something most of us do everyday.
We were going to design our own touchscreen hardware, but then realized the best ones were already on the market, laughed [ Dr. Paul ] Nuyujukian, so we went on Amazon instead and bought a Nexus 9 tablet.
The team took their existing setup and reworked it so that patient T6's brain waves could control where she tapped on the Nexus touchscreen. It was a surprisingly easy modification: the neuroprosthetic communicated with the tablet through existing Bluetooth protocols, and the system was up and running in less than a year.
"Basically the tablet recognized the prosthetic as a wireless Bluetooth mouse," explained Nuyujukian. We pointed her to a web browser app and told her to have fun.
In a series of short movie clips, the team demonstrated patient T6 Googling questions about gardening, taking full advantage of the autocompletion feature to speed up her research. T6 had no trouble navigating through tiny links and worked the standard QWERTY keyboard efficiently.