PORTLAND, Ore. — Giving paralyzed patients a more normal life using their brain waves to control household items was the dream of Royal Philips NV, based in Amsterdam, and Dublin's Accenture plc. They succeeded in proving the concept with a thin, stylish, space-age-looking, three-prong brain-wave monitor.
Called "Emotiv Insight Brainware," the device gives some control back to people with neuro-degenerative diseases, with which more than 400,000 people are afflicted each year. The trials were successfully tested on volunteers representing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, a.k.a. Lou Gehrig's disease) patients for the proof-of-concept demonstration.
Philips and Accenture collaborated to create the software to interact with the Emotiv Insight Brainware and the wearable display. Fjord Ltd., a Helsinki design consultancy owned by Accenture Interactive, designed the display's user interface.
More Star Trek than Flash Dance: A brain-wave monitor with three electrodes may look like an 80s headband but could be a life saver for people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrigís Disease. The headband enables the wearer to use brain waves to complete household tasks.
"Our goal was to make a brain scanner that helped patients with limited mobility control their environment and gain more independence," Brent Blum, Wearable Display R&D lead at Accenture's Technology Labs in San Jose, Calif., told EE Times. "At first it seemed a 'crazy idea,' but over time we began to find this possibility was very real, and that it would provide patients the opportunity to regain much of their household independence, such as by turning lights and off, turning on the TV, changing channels, sending text messages, and generally regaining something that resembled their old life."
Accenture was the system integrator and designed from the ground-up a system with low latency, high bandwidth, and a conceptual separation between each of the controllers so that new functions could be added modularly, such as a unit that calls 911 in the event that the patient feels he is having a heart attack. Accenture claims to have integrated all these devices into something that can easily be modified and expanded for both medical and consumer applications in the future.
"From Philips' perspective, the opportunity to show what you can do with these connected technologies has made this proof-of-concept successful," Anthony Jones, M.D., VP and CMO for Philips Patient Care and Monitoring Solutions, told us. "There are many other systems out there that depend on some sort of movement by the patients, and we can accommodate eye movement and voice, too. But ours is unique in that it can depend entirely on using brain waves."
Philips has crafted a space-age-looking brain-wave monitor with three electrodes that enables control of household items for sufferers of ALS.
Philips's brain-wave monitor with three electrodes enables the user to control household items through brain waves.
Philips Digital Accelerator Lab aimed to integrate this new brain-wave controller with its other brands, such as its Lifeline Medical Alert Service that allows emergency calls to be made just by thinking about them; Philips Hue personal wireless lighting for turning on and changing the intensity and color of lights; and its Smart TVs that could give patients access to the web.
The patients can train the system using their own kind of mental imagery to perform various tasks, so far proving the concept for turning on specific lights and controlling their brightness, turning on/off the television, changing its volume, making a call on the Philips LifeLine emergency response system, and sending predefined text messages to friends and caregivers, such as "Are you watching the game?" or "I'm ready for dinner," or "I'm uncomfortable," or "I'm having an emergency," and so on.
Emotiv Insight Brainware runs its entire software repertoire on any Android tablet on the input side, then on the output side uses Philips controllers attached to all the devices you want to control, such as a Philips Smart TV or LifeLine. The system can use any wearable display on the market for feedback to the patient, including Google Glass, Epson's AR Glasses, or the ReCon Jet.
Philips proof-of-concept pictures patients using their thoughts alone or in conjunction with muscles, eye tracking, voice, and touch to send brain commands to an Android tablet that then controls TVs, lighting, medical alerts, and even email, while providing feedback with a wearable display. Click here for larger image.
To keep the system from turning things on and off by fleeting thoughts, the software forces the patient to stay on a given thought for a certain period to activate the functions. Examples include thinking of a bouncing ball to turn on a light, or riding a bicycle to change the channel on TV, or running to activate the LifeLine emergency response team.
Get more information at Philips's website.
— R. Colin Johnson, Advanced Technology Editor, EE Times