Image: Jake Maymar / Flickr

Festival of Imagination: Almost an Android

Professor Christopher James introduced the audience to Biomedical Engineering – specifically, to the technology of ‘brain controlled interface’ (BCI).

BCI is based on monitoring and interpreting the electric signals that are used for communication inside the brain. Using electrodes that are placed either onto the skull or directly onto the brain, these signals can be extracted and visualized in ‘brainwaves’.

Certain imaginations or thoughts, e.g. an arm movement, are linked to detectable brain signals. Monitoring these in ‘brainwaves’ therefore enables to link an imagination to a command.

Professor James illustrated this with various examples: In a TV episode of 2008, James May is seen steering an electric wheelchair through Warwick’s Engineering Department, steering all turns only with thoughts.

Valuable uses for the technology include: Cochlear and retina implants; replacing hearing and eyesight, or ‘Deep Brain Stimulation’ that suppresses the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

When asked what she considered the most interesting part of the talk, Georgia Wilson, aged 6, told the Boar: “It was all interesting, not just one bit”.


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