IBrain, the latest “thought-reading device” in neuroscience, may revolutionize communication, providing a method to help to those with certain physical illnesses.
Dr. Philip Low of NeuroVigil pioneered the iBrain, a portable cap-like device worn on the head, which picks up waves and brain signals that change in connection to different thoughts or activities. The signals get transferred through an algorithm to recognize the brain activity, and Low hopes to use the data collection to trigger responses or actions.
The iBrain provides an amazing conduit between medicine and technology, giving hope those whose have impaired communication skills. The goal is to aid doctors with medical diagnoses and help patients with neurodegenerative conditions, like central nervous systems disorders.
Use of the iBrain in its current form includes collecting data for those suffering from sleep apnea, depression, and autism. To test the device’s reach, Dr. Low and a team of scientists took the device to physicist Stephen Hawking, who suffers from ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. By thinking in repeated patterns, the device picked up changes in Hawking’s brain, like when he thought about moving his hand — though he has no physical ability to do so — and then translated the signals into words or computer commands.
Using technology to figure out what is going on inside someone’s head is a construct of science fiction, but neuroscientists are hard at work to bring it to real-life use, breaking down barriers to communication.
Aside from its intended goals, the technology could become routine for diagnostic purposes in the long-term, or expand to other parts of the population by inspiring other thought-reading devices. The algorithm technology could create a platform for interaction beyond communication, reinventing the ways technology can aid patients with degenerative disorders so they can use thought-command to turn on a light, for example.
Though scientists must conduct much more research, iBrain offers plenty of potential for doctors as a diagnostic tool, as well as for patients with restricted communication abilities. But the invention itself elevates communicative technology to an unprecedented level, pushing boundaries of how we can use technology to discover more about the world around us, and ourselves.