Brain waves to enter avatars
The most recent developments of brain interfaces Experiments have so far led to the possibility of giving commands to a computer through the brain, without affecting other organs. Now a novelty is appearing on the panorama that arouses interest also for the humanitarian applications that can result: the experimentation of a brain interface for Second Life, the popular electronic environment developed by Linden Lab.
The news, starting with Nikkei Net who initially spread it, is doing fast around the net . The idea is from Professor Jun’ichi Ushiba of the Biomedical Engineering Laboratory of the University of Keio (Japan): in the researcher’s laboratory the team of collaborators he directs has developed a brain interface (BCI, brain computer interface) that allows Second Life users to to walk an avatar on the screen simply thinking to move the various parts of the body. With this single brain action the avatar walks when the user think about moving your feet or turn left or right if the user imagine moving your right or left arm and so on.
The system consists of a special element to be housed on the skullcap, equipped with electrodes that they monitor the activity of areas of the cerebral cortex deputies to control the movement of arms and legs.
A car quite similar the one used for electroencephalograms reads the data received from the electrodes and supplies them to the computer that plays the role of BCI .
In the latter, a particular algorithm analyzes and interprets the movements imagined by the user and makes them available to the program Second Life in the form of keyboard commands, thus allowing the movement of the avatar. In this way the user is able to exercise on the avatar almost total control in a three-dimensional virtual environment, without moving a single muscle, for the moment limited to the movements of the arms and legs. A demonstration of operation it is visible by downloading this video (Windows Media Video format, about 15 MB).
The working group plans, in the future, to improve the BCI to make it possible more complex movements and gestures . The current apparatus, developed in joint-venture with the University’s Department of Rehabilitation Medicine and with the Tsukigase Rehabilitation Center, may be useful in providing concrete support to people with severe physical disabilities, allowing them to communicate and, why not, undertake business activities on Second Life. Interviewed by the France Presse agency, Professor Ushiba explained that Second Life can motivate patients with severe paralysis, which often they fall into depressive states at the time of rehabilitation: “if they can see their mental acts with their own eyes, they can be able to reinvigorate their brain activity and help themselves to restore some motor functions”.
Marco Valerio Principality