How cool is it that computers can mimic the human brain or seem as intelligent as humans – or maybe even more intelligent? But do you want to hear something even cooler?! Computers controlled by the brain! This innovative technology, so-called brain-computer interface (BCI), can control computer programs and even robots by using brainwaves in real-time. While connected to a device that measures your brain activity, you only have to think about moving left or right – and a robot moves either left or right as a result.

Applications

The field of BCI is still pretty new, but some major progress has already been made. People who are (partly) paralyzed can control artificial limbs by means of a BCI. Steps are even being made to utilize BCIs to enable people who are ‘locked-in’*, meaning fully paralyzed and unable to speak, communicate with the outside world.

Does this sound unbelievable? Try searching BCIs on Youtube and be amazed!

BCIs have opened up a world of possibilities and I strongly believe that we will see some major advantages of this technology in the future. Not only does it have many possibilities in the medical world, but it may also aid the general society. Try typing a message by only using your brain signals, or controlling an action game by only thinking about performing the actions (this in combination with virtual reality would make one heck of game!).

Out-of-this-world research

Games aside, BCIs can also be used for more serious applications. We, as a team, are currently studying the possibility of using BCIs in space. With an eye on future space travels, we hope that BCIs can create a safer environment for astronauts. When astronauts can control robots from the comfort of the spaceship, they do not have to put their bodies in the dangers that come with exploring the environment.

Some problems arise, however, as brain signals might change under zero-gravity. This is exactly what we are doing research towards! We are currently setting up the experiment, programming the BCI, recruiting and training participants, and will soon be analyzing our data, writing papers, and so much more.

Oh, and… did we mention that we are doing this research by means of parabolic flights? These are aircrafts that pretty much go up and down at a 45 degree angle, thereby simulating different gravity levels – in other words, you’ll experience zero-gravity many times along the way. How bad-ass (excuse my language) is that!

As you may have noticed – I’m excited about this project. If you have gotten curious yourself about my team, Team Brainfly, and exactly what we’re up to, you can read all about us at www.brainspaceproject.com or follow us as brainflyteam on facebook. Meet you there!

 

*You can find an example of a locked-in patient being able to communicate and some further explanation on BCIs here: