It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s LawHofstadter’s Law
We promise a robust, reliable and fast BCI that needs no training. It is a beautiful promise, and it has even proven to be working in a lab. However, nobody benefits from the promise by itself… for this it needs to become a product, or rather, it has to become a profitable proposition. This is exactly the goal of the Prize4Life that was awarded to the research group at the Donders Institute, and which resulted in our current commercial endeavour to bring a product to market.
Although our company is just starting to organise the efforts to understand the specific needs of users, the scientific work has also been based on insights from the ALS foundations with whom cooperation took place, and we are offered a good starting point by an effort from Accenture and Philips, where the following insights have been found on the needs of our initial users:
They want to regain the ability to communicate with their loved ones
They want to regain control of things around them to be more autonomous in their lives
Considering that we have a proof-of-concept of a communication-solution, allowing users to ‘type’ by focusing on the letters of a presented keyboard, after which the text can be read by the computer, we can identify the four phases below that we will have to go through, considering our focus as stated in my previous post.
These are obviously simplifications of an iterative process that will take place, but is useful for us in prioritising the puzzles to solve, and may help you as interested reader in giving some guidance for your expectations of our promise:
Alpha-phase: a first fully functioning product that we can test with a couple of users, to gain their feedback and define further user-requirements.
Beta: an improved version of the product, that we can offer to ALS-patients in a pilot covering multiple countries.
Gamma: a well-documented iteration where we can offer the headset with a software development kit to scientists, developers and hobbyists to pursue different projects.
Delta-phase: the delivery of services by using robust elementary BCI building blocks, which will cater to very different use-cases, both with and without an intended medical purpose.
Each phase will have its own challenges, and I will not commit to timelines while we are solving our first issues in getting the invention out of the lab. We are committed to speed, since, like any other start-up, that is our competitive advantage. But more than that we want to help users with no time to waste, so we will always have a bias for action, while understanding the need for quality at the end of the process. Please bear with us while we grow through the phases.