AIST Stories No2
16From AIST to the Innovative WorldA compact device that can accurately express intentionsCan a machine be directly connected to the brain to decode the thoughts in a person's head and control external equipment? The brain–machine Interface (BMI)*1 is like a technology from a science fiction story, but progress is accelerating in Japan and other countries to make it a reality. It is already a commercial product in some areas in fields such as welfare services, sports and toys.In the field of welfare services, we anticipate that it will be introduced to venues for the care of patients who, due to incurable diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the consequences of accidents, and suchlike, cannot move their bodies or talk and cannot express their wishes to those around them. Excluding those patients whose cognitive capabilities are greatly reduced, it is very stressful both for a patient and for their caregivers if the patient has no way to share their thoughts when they have feelings and needs that they wish to express.There are already BMIs that are useful for the expression of these wishes but they have many practical problems, such as the size and cost of the equipment and difficulty of operation. Moreover, to measure the tiny electric currents inside the brain, some types require that electrodes be implanted by surgery. These devices cannot really be considered convenient and safe. Now, though, we have the Neurocommunicator, a BMI that non-invasively measures brain waves. It is superior to other BMIs on the following aspects: the compact size of the apparatus, the speed and accuracy of decoding brain waves, and the range of ideas that can be expressed. The Neurocommunicator was press-released in 2010 by a leader of Neurotechnology Research Group, Dr. Ryohei P. Hasegawa."I was originally involved in basic research in brain science. Around 2008, I came to know patients in the 'totally locked-in state', for whom the expression of their wishes is extremely difficult, and I decided that I would try to make a contribution to society by developing more convenient devices to support the daily lives of these patients."Neurocommunicator Equipment▲The patient wears the brain wave-measuring headgear and a small monitor screen is positioned in front of the patient. Brain wave data from the headgear is collected and analyzed by a computer beside the bed.Analyzing computerMonitorHeadgearCommunication aid by brain waves: the NeurocommunicatorUnderstanding the Wishes of Patients with severe motor deficits by decoding the brain wavesSupporting the daily lives of patients with a safe and easy-to-use brain–machine interfaceNeurotechnology Research Group, Human Technology Research InstituteSome patients cannot express their wishes because, even though their minds are working, disease or injury of the brain prevent them from talking or writing. When it is difficult for a patient to express their wishes, there is an extra burden on the patient and on caregivers. If a small and easy-to-use brain–machine interface―the Neurocommunicator―can be realized and becomes common in care venues, remarkably unhindered communication will be possible and the quality of life of patients will be greatly improved.Into the futureAIST!Our life and society will change in this way!