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What's On Your Mind? Twittering Via Brain Waves

If updating your friends and followers on your every mundane activity somehow doesn't seem fast and real-time enough, perhaps, in the future, you can let them read your mind to know what's up at the same second that you do. Scary thought? Perhaps. But brain-wave twittering is here and it's a very beneficial new technology being developed by a collaboration of researchers from the University of Wisconsin Madison and the Wadsworth Center in Albany. The technology isn't as fast or imposing as it might sound, but it does read brain waves to facilitate communication.

The primary goal of this brain-wave communication technology is to allow  those who have locked-in syndrome, a condition arising from variety of diseases that decapicitates motor function and essentially renders the person a healthy mind in an immobile body, a means of communicating with the outside world. A few types of diseases and injuries that cause locked-in syndrome are ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), brain stem stroke and high spinal cord injuries. These individuals would be unable to type or twitter conventionally and this technology is a huge step in facilitating basic communication.

The communication system consists of on an EEG helmet that scans brain waves and simple letter-based computer imaging. The letters flash on the screen and when the letter that the user wants flashes, his brain registers a change that is detected by the EEG and the letter is selected. By stringing together letters, one is able to type without ever touching a keyboard. It also offers an advantage in allowing individuals to seamlessly communicate like any other Twitter user without any indication that they suffer from a disability.

Researchers (Clockwise from Left): Leo Walton, Justin Williams and Adam WilsonResearchers (Clockwise from Left): Leo Walton, Justin Williams and Adam Wilson

While it is an exciting new technology, it is still rather slow and rudimentary so putting together a long message would take a while. This is why it is an excellent pair with Twitter, where tweets run a maximum of 140 characters. Those who experience locked-in syndrome can communicate with friends and family via Twitter and keep them updated on how they're doing. Researchers have cited a typing speed of up to eight characters per minute using the technology.

Earlier in the month, Adam Wilson, a biomedical engineering doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin Madison working on the project, made use of the system and sent a simple tweet: "using EEG to send tweet." The technology works and the next step being taken by Wadsworth Center researchers is to start in-home trials. While it's likely that large-scale use of this type of communication is years away, it is a very promising and exciting development.

Check out a video of the trial run here.

Source: University of Wisconsin