Scientists are hoping that a recently-developed technology which allows people with severely-impaired motor functions to play video games using only their minds could prove to be of immense help for disabled people.
Samuel Kunz, who was paralysed after an accident, is participating in a trial in which he uses the brain-computer interface to control an avatar through a race course in a specially-designed computer game called ‘Brain Driver’.
To ‘pilot’ the digital racecar, Kunz’s brain signals are transmitted to a computer via electrodes placed on his head, Reuters reports.
This means that Kurz is able to steer the car left or right depending on which hand he is thinking about at that particular moment.
The car moves straight if Kurz thinks about both hands at the same time. But that’s not all.
Kurz can even slow down the vehicle by relaxing his mind.
The ultimate aim of the research is to develop technology to help disabled people better control wheelchairs and other devices.
Dr. Rea Lehner, a neuroscientist at ETH Zurich, explained to Reuters how the technology behind ‘Brain Driver’ works.
"These electrodes are connected to an amplifier and then to the computer and to our algorithms in the end. The algorithms are then calculating the brain signal and sending commands to the game that our pilot can actually control,” he said.
'Brain Driver' will be showcased next year at Cybathlon championships which invites people with physical disabilities to Zurich every year to compete against each other using bionic assistive technology.
Kunz, who will be among the four participants at the Cybathlon ‘Brain Driver’ event, said the unique video game requires a lot of concentration.
"I have to be very concentrated. The connection between my fingers and my brain is not there anymore. I still try to move my fingers just in my head and so that needs a lot of concentration to do it exactly the same way every time," Reuters quoted him as saying.
ETH Zurich’s professor for neural control of movement, Nicole Wenderoth, said the next generation of technology will probably mean sensors and electrodes implanted directly into the brain.
In July, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced at the launch of Neuralink that the start-up was aiming to connect the human brain with a machine interface "before the end of next year.