Brain-Computer Interfaces: from childhood dreams to real life applications

May 19, 2023

Could we enable telekenetics?

Every child has dreamed of moving objects with their mind. At the very last since Star Wars showed them how to do so with nothing but pure will power. Imagine being able to hurl random items at your friends, scoot your classmates' exam paper a bit closer towards you, or play Mario Kart without even having to pick up the controller. While we cannot enable universal telekinesis yet, we are able to analyze a person's brain activity and use it to process their intentions as a control signal. However, just like the force in Star Wars, this technology holds the potential to improve many people's quality of life to a greater extent than telekinetic Mario Kart.

What is the relevance of this topic?

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that around 250,000 to 500,000 people suffer from paralysis every year, depriving them of the mobility that many of us take for granted. In severe cases, these individuals may even lose the ability to communicate with the outside world [1]. However, since many of them still have full cognitive capacity, brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) present an opportunity to help them overcome their physical limitations. They regain their autonomy through its assistance by controlling their own wheelchair or translating their thoughts into speech.

Our BCI technology has the potential to make a real difference in the lives of millions of people. To demonstrate this, we will be competing in the Cybathlon BCI competition against other enthusiastic developers. We will provide a tetraplegic person with our BCI, allowing them to perform various tasks that simulate the challenges they face in their daily lives. Our ultimate goal is to refine this technology to the point where it can reliably control a wheelchair, giving those who are paralyzed greater freedom and independence.

Who are we?

NeuroTUM is a non-profit, student-run, and association, composed of around 30 highly motivated students with diverse academic and cultural backgrounds. Our team is organized into four sub-teams: Experimental Design, Signal Processing, Deep Learning, and Public Relations, each providing specific skill sets and abilities. We share a passion for neuroscience and technology, and we are committed to applying our skills to build a more inclusive future.

The focus of our first project at neuroTUM, the development of a brain-computer interface (BCI) as mentioned before. For this, we non-invasively record the electrical brain signals of a person using electroencephalography (EEG), filter and classify them in real-time using state-of-the-art machine learning algorithms. The control signals obtained are then used to navigate a character in a virtual environment, allowing us to play Mario Kart telekinetically. However, this is only a test scenario for tackling a more important project.

Stay tuned for our next article, where we will dive into the specifics of each sub-team and their roles within our organization.



Article written by Leon

Edited by Charlie, Fatma and Isabel

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