Brain Computer Interface: what’s that?


Control by thought

Using sensors, the brain can control computer programs. These man-machine interfaces are developed, and their operation reveals a huge potential.

Control games by thought, be able to walk in a virtual world just by imagining his movements make clear the blurred image of a screen just by focusing: it is no longer science fiction but the real science today. And perhaps these brain-computer (or BCI for “Brain Computer Interfaces”) interfaces become commonplace tomorrow.

How to control a computer by thought? For simplicity, it is necessary to capture the brain activity and translate it into computer program.

An electrode encased helmet charge capture electrical signals in the brain, as in the case of electroencephalography. Software will then translate these signals into computer commands. This is precisely what the Open Source software performs OpenVibe, developed by a team at INRIA, french research institute (France).

The accuracy of helmets clad electrode

This software can be downloaded free and ready to use, will specifically be responsible to acquire the signal, but also clean and classify before translating. “The fewer sensors have less signal quality will be good. Because there may be noise will interfere with the signal. Other electrical signals can indeed come face or the outside …” said Anatole Lecuyer, director of research at the Inria in charge of OpenVibe project. Helmets with few electrodes will be less accurate and their potential clamped.

This does not prevent some companies currently developing simple bands, barely visible as Google Glass, supposed to allow control by thought.

Learning software

Under the control of thought, another limitation may appear during the learning phase because the software requires calibration. It is comparable to that of voice recognition technology learning, requiring the user speaks before recognize and understand his voice. Here it is, for example, start making hand movements, so that the corresponding electrical signals in the brain can be recorded before being recognized.

Consequence: it is then possible to make the same movement of the hand, or … simply imagine. This is why some people may not exercise such control “imaginary activity” because they will not be able to “imagine” the movements correctly.

Like buttons on a controller of video game


For others, an imagined movement may therefore correspond to a command. Thus, it is possible to combine one, two or all three orders of imaginary movements. As if it were a joystick buttons. The OpenVibe technology has also demonstrated several years ago that it was possible in a virtual world, to move in several directions only by thought, although exercise can be tiring in the long run.

OpenVibe team was also able to work with the video game industry to develop more games, and even a serious game. This “serious game” worked through a slightly different process: the more the player is focused on a fuzzy screen, the image of the screen became clear. “This game can therefore quite used to learn to focus and channel attention. What, for example, help children with hyperactivity or attention deficit disorder,” said Anatole Lécuyer.

In this serious game based on OpenVibe, when the player is focused, the image and sound of the video projected on the far right become sharper.

The medical sector is also one of the outlets OpenVibe project, in addition to the gaming industry. A sapling after Inria Mensia Technology , has already launched in medical applications enables the OpenVibe technology. The latter can indeed be used for therapeutic purposes but also for the well-being it provides or the brain training, to resolve tensions, sleep disorders, or learning to relax …

Today and tomorrow

OpenVibe code is available as open source. Therefore difficult to know the purpose, but it is now possible to find on the Internet helmets fifteen sensors for less than 200 euros. There are also games already available on the Web working with such helmets. Moreover, the principle of Open Source, open Open Vibe code has external contributions, which allows him especially today being enriched the necessary drivers for new helmets coming on the market.

And tomorrow? The technology will she one day mature enough, for example, replace a computer mouse? “We’re not there yet, the mouse movements on the screen are not accurate enough,” slice clearly Anatole Lecuyer, who admits that the scientific research and publications in this area are experiencing exponential growth in recent years.

More details

1. Openvibe software from INRIA:

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About olivierlehe

Passion for Innovations

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