The map, the territory, and the typewriter ...


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"Brain computer interface turns mental handwriting into text on screen," says the clickworthy headline from ScienceDaily.

-- what stuck out from my first skim was that while the mechanics are fascinating, the output of text approached 90 words per minute, more than twice as fast as I can type. On second skim I read correctly 90 characters per minute.  Oh well.

The second take-home was that this could allow someone with motor-neuron impairments like ALS or a shut-in syndrome the ability to communicate more fluently than through a gaze-detector, eye-blink or cheek-twitch.

The first few paragraphs:


For the first time, researchers have deciphered the brain activity associated with trying to write letters by hand. Working with a participant with paralysis who has sensors implanted in his brain, the team used an algorithm to identify letters as he attempted to write them. Then, the system displayed the text on a screen -- in real time.

The innovation could, with further development, let people with paralysis rapidly type without using their hands, says study coauthor Krishna Shenoy, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator at Stanford University who jointly supervised the work with Jaimie Henderson, a Stanford neurosurgeon.

By attempting handwriting, the study participant typed 90 characters per minute -- more than double the previous record for typing with such a "brain-computer interface," Shenoy and his colleagues report in the journal Nature on May 12, 2021.

This technology and others like it have the potential to help people with all sorts of disabilities, says Jose Carmena, a neural engineer at the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved in the study. Though the findings are preliminary, he says, "it's a big advancement in the field."

Brain-computer interfaces convert thought into action, Carmena says. "This paper is a perfect example: the interface decodes the thought of writing and produces the action."

Thought-powered communication

When an injury or disease robs a person of the ability to move, the brain's neural activity for walking, grabbing a cup of coffee, or speaking a sentence remain. Researchers can tap into this activity to help people with paralysis or amputations regain lost abilities.


Howard Hughes Medical Institute. (2021, May 12). Brain computer interface turns mental handwriting into text on screen. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 15, 2021 from

The Nature abstract is here.  Like ScienceDaily, the journal's online DOI page is cheap with pictures. The video and image below comes from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's report cribbed by ScienceDaily. Brain Computer Interface Turns Mental Handwriting into Text on Screen | HHMI


As the participant imagined writing a letter or symbol, sensors implanted in his brain picked up on patterns of electrical activity, which an algorithm interpreted to trace the path of his imaginary pen. Credit: F. Willett et al./Nature 2021

Edited by william.scherk
mEdIcAl institute, I'll have you know. With a 22 billion dollar endowment. The undead oligarchs spend on ...
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