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Brain Waves Power New OHSU Invention For Disabled

Scientists at Oregon Health and Science University are working on a new invention designed to give voice to people with near-total paralysis. The device links users to an interpretive program through brain waves.

Consultant Greg Bieker demonstrates a new device for communication.

April Baer / OPB

The group demonstrated their new device at a linguistics conference in Portland.

Consultant Greg Bieker hasn’t been able to move since a stroke sixteen years ago. But using a cap fitted with electrodes, the new interface lets him spell out sentences.

He watches a series of letters. The electrodes pick up impulses his brain sends when the correct letters for his words come up.

Brian Roark is an associate professor at OHSU. He says Bieker’s input as a paid consultant is helping scientists refine the device so it will work in the real world.

“There is a fair bit of prep time in terms of getting the cap on the head, it’s not like you just get it on and start rolling. There’s also training and calibration phases. That’s the bottleneck fo the whole process,” Roark explained.

But the project has two more years to tweak the device and make it more user-friendly. Bieker says the new technology is definitely an improvement over communicating through another person.

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