It’s probably obvious, but we feel the need to say this: every damned thing about famed physicist Stephen Hawking is inspirational. We cannot read an article about him and not feel emotionally impacted by the fact that he is 70 years old, suffering from Lou Gherig’s disease, and yet continues to serve as an integral figure in many of the most cutting edge scientific experiments out there. Mr. Hawking, who is finding it more difficult to speak as his disease progresses, is still at it with the iBrain, a device that the New York Times reports is learning to read thoughts, with Mr. Hawking as its first human test subject.
According to the Times:
The iBrain is part of a new generation of portable neural devices and algorithms intended to monitor and diagnose conditions like sleep apnea, depression and autism. Invented by a team led by Philip Low, a 32-year-old neuroscientist who is chief executive ofNeuroVigil, a company based in San Diego, the iBrain is gaining attention as a possible alternative to expensive sleep labs that use rubber and plastic caps riddled with dozens of electrodes and usually require a patient to stay overnight.
It seems to be a miraculous little device, with many scientists encouraged by the data it’s been able to generate so far. The iBrain picks up brain signals, and Mr. Low’s team is attempting to determine if Mr. Hawking can train the device to read intent, and distinguish between different signals. This way, Mr. Hawking’s thoughts can turn into commands sent to a computer program, which can help him communicate faster and easier.
The whole experiment is stunningly futuristic, and breathes new hope into technologies that can help patients with ALS, or even those with locked-in syndrome, communicate better.
We just hope no evil corporations get their hands on the iBrain, or else our world may start to resemble a sci fi YA novel.