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3/13/2006
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Brief: Fraunhofer Shows Thought-Controlled Typing

Demonstrations of the use of electroencephalogram signals to control electronic equipment continue to proliferate, with one of the Fraunhofer Institutes and a Berlin medical charity demonstrating a "mental typewriter" at CeBIT in Hannover, Germany.

LONDON — Demonstrations of the use of electroencephalogram signals to control electronic equipment continue to proliferate, with one of the Fraunhofer Institutes and a Berlin medical charity demonstrating a “mental typewriter” at CeBIT in Hannover, Germany

The demonstrations in the recent past have included the control of a cursor on a PC and changing channels on a television. But the recent spate of demos has also brought forward protestations that the manipulation of EEG signals in biofeedback is not novel.

Cooperation between Fraunhofer FIRST (Berlin, Germany) and the Berlin charity to develop an interface between the human brain and the computer began some years ago and resulted in the co-called Berlin Brain-Computer Interface (BBCI). Electrodes attached to the scalp measure the brain’s electrical signals. These are then amplified and transmitted to the computer, which converts them into technical control signals.

Human patients can learn to manipulate cursors and such systems could provide greatly improved quality of life for quadriplegics, Fraunhofer said. Other potential applications of the BBCI are in safety technologies, where the EEG activity in the EEG could be used to aid driving safety by applying brakes in an emergency faster than a conventional reaction time.

Over the past several years Cyberkinetics Neurotechnology Systems Inc. has demonstrated different biofeedback systems and recently posted reported its latest findings with respect to its BrainGate neural interface system in two poster presentations at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Washington, D.C.

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