Brain Chips Are Here To Help
As smartphone technology has advanced over the years there have been efforts to make sure no users are left behind. Android Accessibility features have evolved alongside to help users with disabilities. These have ranged from voice commands to braille displays. And now, thanks to BrainGate, even paralyzed users who can’t pick up a phone have the opportunity to use one.
The IBCI unleashed:
Researchers have developed a new brain-computer interface that lets people with paralysis control a tablet fresh out of the box. In the study, three participants with tetraplegia used the IBCI (intracortical brain-computer interface). The IBCI was then connected to the tablet with a point-and-click wireless Bluetooth mouse. The end result being that user were able to move a mouse around on the tablet screen and interact without ever touching the product.
Testers were able to use common apps ranging from web browsing to texting to playing music on a piano app. Two of the users were able to use the device to “chat” with each other in real time. Let me again emphasize that all of this was able to happen with a tablet that had no altercations done to it. Users who were unable to move their arms or legs at all were able to experience the cutting-edge technologies that a lot of us take for granted.
While the research for this achievement has been done by BrainGate, Android has taken steps as well to try making smartphone technology accessible to any and all users. Android Accessibility’s feature set includes things such as the TalkBack function and Braille display. TalkBack allows users to interact with their devices using spoken feedback. The BrailleBack feature lets people connect a refreshable braille display to an android device via Bluetooth. This way users can read their phone even though they can’t see the screen.
There are other Bluetooth connections that Android thrives on such as switch, keyboard, and mouse. These help users with limited mobility, and they’re constantly undergoing innovations and improvements. Fuchsia, proclaimed as Android’s successor, is working heavily on these kinds of integrations.
Taking Tech to The Next Level:
BrainGate’s research is truly amazing, but we also shouldn’t just pigeon hole it into something that can help those with paralysis. As this technology continues to develop it will likely expand into all of our life’s until we’re eventually at the “Google Glasses” stage. By this I mean seeing an entire virtual work around us and being able to interact with just our thoughts.
I’m incredibly excited to see this helping people experience what they otherwise couldn’t. But there’s tons of opportunity for every smartphone user to utilize this tech down the road too. What are your thoughts on the IBCI? How far off do you think we are from this being a commodity that we all by at the store? Let us know in the comments below!