You are currently viewing Helping paralyzed patients to speak again

Nature, 23 August 2023, researchers from the University Club of San Francisco and Berkeley published the results of their new brain-computer interface (BCI). This technology allows a paralyzed patient to speak again through an avatar. The system that detects words and facial expressions delivers the most capable tool for helping disabled people to communicate. 

Brain-computer interfaces have existed for a decade. This is a machine that uses the electrical signal from the brain and converts it into a numerical signal that can be used on a computer. It helps to better understand how the brain works or create new interfaces between humans and machines. A large-scale use of this technology is still very difficult because of its complexity and cost. This time, researchers built an interface that could translate 80 words per minute and simulate facial expressions using artificial intelligence (AI).  

How it is possible? 

The researchers use artificial intelligence to generate realistic voices and enhance speed and accuracy during conversation. This method uses 1000 patterns of brain signals. It analyzes the patient’s brain signal in real time. The brain-computer interface is personalized with the face and voice of the patient. The biggest innovation is the capacity of the brain-computer interface to detect words and facial expressions.

“The accuracy, speed, and vocabulary are crucial”, said Sean Metzger, a researcher who works on the text encoder.

To achieve 80 words per minute, another AI is used to better understand words and sentences. With generative artificial intelligence becoming more and more easy to use, many sectors can benefit from artificial intelligence innovation.

What’s next?

It gives big hope to millions of people who have difficulty speaking or expressing emotion. The next step is to build a wireless system. Today, the patient needs a brain implant to communicate with the system. An implant with 253 electrodes on the surface of the brain, in a region of the brain known for being important for language.

To go further, this innovation can open new ways to express emotion with a digital avatar. A virtual reality company will benefit from a wireless brain-computer interface. It can reduce the use of the camera and bring realistic emotion into place, like Metaverse.



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