One of the greatest minds of the world is now lending his brain towards research. It will help him and, hopefully, many others. Stephen Hawking has agreed to undergo trials involving the development of new technology that literally can read your thoughts.
The new device, developed by Philip Low from Stanford University who is the founder of the healthcare company NeuroVigil, aims to monitor brain activity and then map it onto actual actions or speech. For example, if one is thinking of moving his paralysed right hand and grasp a cup kept to his side, the device can read that thought and attempt the action of grabbing at the cup.
Stephen Hawking, incapable of any sort of speech, now communicates with his cheek muscles. Specific movements of his cheek muscles signify certain words and these are then communicated to a speech device. Now, it seems that Hawking is losing control of even his cheek muscles and this is where this new portable device comes in handy.
Called the iBrain, it has to be ‘calibrated’, i.e. told what to do when a certain part of the brain is activated. The information is collected from one particular point on the scalp.
In a series of initial trials that Hawking has been involved in, he has been asked to imagine moving his hands or legs. He has also been asked to think specific thoughts and these have been recorded. It turns out that more than the specific brain activity, changes in brain activity is more important. The team is now working towards ‘converting’ these thoughts into action.
The device will also help Hawking think of words that can be written down after being fed to the system. The current process of constructing sentences, using a word one at a time, is painfully slow. This will be a much faster process.
Survivor, genius, and now, guinea pig – Stephen Hawking has been all of them. And is still living and telling us tales.