“Believe you can and you are halfway there”
– Theodore Roosevelt
A good year ago we started with a new invention, and wanted to bring it to those who could benefit from it. We believed we could make a first fully functioning product so that we could test it with a couple of users, to gain their feedback and define further user-requirements. Well, in the world of Brain Computer Interfaces a ‘fully functioning product’ is not a trivial effort, and engineering is a different trade from inventio. But we succeeded, and our first prototype is there and it is going to leave the lab.
We are thrilled that we can actually really start testing with Locked-in and ALS-patients, some of whom really have no other means of communication than eye-blinking. An initial pilot will start with a limited number of users in Belgium and the Netherlands, and we will then improve the product with the insights gained and come back for a larger audience before the end of the year.
Whereas Henry Ford and Steve Jobs had good reasons why they did not ask their customers what they wanted, we actually found ourselves in a strange catch-22: we actually want to gather input from users, but when they cannot communicate, you have to give them a tool first to let them give their input. A home-screen with three pre-programmable sentences and a button for immediate attention will also open the way to a keyboard, where one can spell freely.It will still be relatively slow for real conversation, but we are only halfway there. We believe in the potential of commanding a computer with brain signals, and surely it will be a lot of tinkering in the coming years, but the typewriter wasn’t developed in one go either. We are only at the bottom of a learning curve.
Join in … together we will learn faster! Besides developing our ‘speller’ for locked-in patients, we are investigating what it could mean for commanding a VR-environment, or how it could be integrated in helmets for environments where you already use your hands, and where noise makes voice-commands less practical. We are leaving the lab, but for finding BCI use-cases in the real world we do not want to be our own limitation. In 2019 we will build some cool demonstrators and hope to make you enthusiastic for this new dimension of interaction. Let us know if your products could benefit from it.