BrainGate: ALS patient performs Google searches on Nexus 9 tablet using her mind

From entering search queries to browsing the web and even to playing Pong on a tablet, this project brings a natural computer interface to those who are paralyzed or with limited motor skills.

Could you enter a Google search on an Android tablet using nothing but your brain? Probably not. There is someone who can, however.

Dubbed "Patient T9", a woman with ALS - also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease -- has successfully entered Google searches on a Nexus 9 tablet simply by thinking of them, reports Singularity Hub.

The technology comes from a project that a few years back began working on BrainGate: A way to use the mind to control prosthetic devices using brain power. Here's a sample of the solution in action with a paralyzed patient playing Pong by imagining that they're moving a mouse.

BrainGate requires a small chip implanted into the patient's brain, where it monitors the signals from roughly 100 neurons.

Scientists have narrowed down the section of the brain that controls motor skills, so focusing on that area provides the opportunity to translate those electrical impulses into actions.

Initially, the process to enter text in a Google search box was slow for Patient T6 because the interface was designed to show the entire alphabet.

That required her to look at each letter, similar to how one would type.

The project team decided an interface upgrade could speed up the process so it designed a Bluetooth interface with a Google Nexus 9 tablet.

Essentially, the patient could then simply think about what letter she was tapping on the display much like using a mouse, making the input method far more effective.

Since the interface is now more easily controlled, the patient can "tap" anywhere on the tablet display, including on the hyperlinks of a webpage.

That's a big step forward but the BrainGate team is far from done. Their next project is to add support for click-and-drag as well as multi-touch navigation with the idea being that the mind becomes a more robust computing interface.

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