Universal brain-computer interface lets people play games with just their thoughts | News

Imagine playing a racing game like Mario Kart, using only your brain to execute the complex series of turns in a lap.

This is not a video game fantasy, but a real program that engineers at The University of Texas at Austin have created as part of research into brain-computer interfaces to help improve the lives of people with motor disabilities. More importantly, the researchers incorporated machine learning capabilities with their brain-computer interface, making it a one-size-fits-all solution.

Typically, these devices require extensive calibration for each user — every brain is different, both for healthy and disabled users — and that has been a major hurdle to mainstream adoption. This new solution can quickly understand the needs of an individual subject and self-calibrate through repetition. That means multiple patients could use the device without needing to tune it to the individual.

“When we think about this in a clinical setting, this technology will make it so we won’t need a specialized team to do this calibration process, which is long and tedious,” said Satyam Kumar, a graduate student in the lab of José del R. Millán, a professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering’s Chandra Family Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Dell Medical School’s Department of Neurology. “It will be much faster to move from patient to patient.”

The research on the calibration-free interface is published in PNAS Nexus.

From left to right: Satyam Kumar, Hussein Alawieh and José del R. Millán.

The subjects wear a cap packed with electrodes that is hooked up to a computer. The electrodes gather data by…

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