Could the future of office work be encapsulated in a device smaller than a one penny coin? Researchers at America’s Brown University maintain that this is the case. In the latest report published in the prestigious “Nature” they announced that thanks to chips implanted directly into the human brain we will be able to write on electronic devices without using a keyboard.
Some demonize them, ascribing almost magical abilities, others see them as a symbol of progress and technological triumph of man. Microchips. It is thanks to them that a group of researchers from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island wants to revolutionize our work. In what way?
In vastly simplified and layman’s language: an implant placed in the human brain would capture impulses from our nervous system center and convert them into letter writing on a computer. There is one condition: the person “writing” would have to know how to type in a given language using a keyboard. It would be imagining the movement of fingers and tapping on the right keys that would move the whole system.
It sounds like an excerpt from a science-fiction novel, but the project’s authors assure us that the technology christened Braingate has not an ounce of fiction in it – just pure science. “The future is now, old man”- one would like to quote a classic.
But before the laments are raised by fans of headgear made from technically pure aluminum, shouting, “They want to chip us all!”, it’s important to look at what’s driving the scientists.
One of the members of the research team, Dr. Leigh Hochberg writes in the report that apart from its innovative nature, there is also a lofty idea behind the whole idea. It is to help people who suffer from limb paresis due to paralysis, muscle paralysis, or other diseases or accidents. Such technology would restore their ability to communicate with their surroundings.
The researchers did not limit themselves to just words. They conducted an experiment in which they placed two small electrodes in the brain of a volunteer, a 65-year-old man who was paralyzed from the neck down by a spinal cord injury.
The electrodes were connected to areas responsible for controlling movement of the right arm and hand. The volunteer was then asked to imagine the action of writing. Using impulses, the text the subject wanted to “write” appeared on a computer screen connected to the electrodes.
According to the researchers, the paralyzed man was able to answer questions and form sentences at the same speed as an able-bodied person his age typing on a smartphone.
– The people involved in the Braingate experiment are truly amazing,” comments Dr. Hochberg. – Their enthusiasm for pushing the boundaries not only provides an unprecedented approach to human brain function, but could realistically help people suffering from paralysis.