At the Wadsworth Center in Albany brain injury researcher Jonathan Wolpaw is developing a computer-brain interface system that allows people who are paralyzed communicate with their loved ones through a computer screen.
The system itself is surprisingly simple. The first step is to don a hat resembling a swim cap that records brain activity thanks to a set of gel-filled electrodes embedded in the fabric. Then you’re asked to concentrate on a specific letter within a matrix of other letters on a computer screen. Each letter displays a unique flashing pattern, so when you focus on one, your brain activity mirrors that letter’s flashing pattern, and the computer can figure out which part of the flashing matrix has caught your attention. Writing a whole word with this system certainly isn’t quick — picking out a single letter takes about 15 seconds — and the cap you had to wear definitely wasn’t comfortable, but it still worked. The text was typed on a computer with the thoughts.