An amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) patient from Australia, Philip O’Keefe, has become the first human being to tweet just thinking about it, without using his limbs, thanks to a non-invasive brain implant of the American biotechnology company Synchron, according to the company itself in a note.
Beyond the anecdotal fact that it was shared on Twitter, what is interesting about this fact is the technology used to write the text. It is a non-invasive implant, that is, for which surgery is not necessary, unlike other similar ones that we have previously reported. The 8-millimeter Synchron device inserted into the brain through a vein and communicates wirelessly with the computer, where a program translates brain signals into words.
To share this advancement on social media, Synchron CEO Thomas Oxley, lent his Twitter account to O’Keefe, who tweeted: “Hello world! Short tweet. Monumental progress ”and“ without the need to type or use your voice. I created this tweet just by thinking about it #helloworldbci ”.
hello, world! Short tweet. Monumental progress.
— Thomas Oxley (@tomoxl) December 23, 2021
It is not, however, the first time a brain implant has allowed a person to write with their mind without using their limbs or their voice. Last May we already reported that some researchers had managed to translate the brain’s cognitive signals into text thanks to brain implants and machine learning algorithms. However, this device was quite invasive, as it required surgery.
The success of this trial is a breakthrough for this technology, which is still in a very early stage of development and which has a major hurdle to overcome: patient safety. And is that if the blood vessel through which the device is inserted into the brain ruptures, the injury could be fatal. Something that has not happened with O’Keefe.
Prior to this trial, Synchron had been testing its technology with several patients, for whom the implant allowed them to progressively manage different functions of a computer. Now they have taken a major leap by allowing them to write without using their hands or voice.