Researchers at Keio University in Japan have demonstrated the ability to use brainwaves to chat and move through a virtual world. For the first time ever researchers enabled a 41 year old man suffering from muscle disorder, to walk through Second Life, a 3D virtual world in the Internet. The subject was able to walk towards the avatar of a student logged in at Keio University located 16km from the subject’s home, and to have a conversation with the student using the “voice chat” function. The demonstration creates new possibilites of communication for motion-impaired people in serious conditions. The experiment demonstrates the successful union of leading-edge technologies in brain science and the Internet. The experiment is the world’s first successful example of people meeting and holding a conversation in the virtual world using brainwaves.
The system uses electrodes as small as 1cm in diameter that are attached to the scalp. A computer detects brainwaves from the sensory-motor cortex when the subject slightly moves fingers of his/her right and left hand, and moves the avatar accordingly. The computer also detects the subject’s will to move forward, and makes the avatar move forward. The system uses a portable electroencephalograph commercially available, and made it possible to bring the system to the subject’s home. The technology will be used to develop communication tools and business tools to support the lives of people with serious movement disorders. (Keio, 2008)
In my opinion, this technology, as the brainwave detection becomes more accurate, could be used and in other areas of medical research, maybe to stroke patients. The possibilities are endless and is a very interesting field of research.
Keio Universtity(2008). Press Release. Available at: http://www.keio.ac.jp/english/press_release/080605e.pdf