TOBI (Tools for Brain-Computer Interaction) is a project funded by the European Union to develop brain-computer interface (BCI) technology to help improve the quality of life of disabled people and increase the effectiveness of rehabilitation.
According to a recent report in Engineering and Technology Magazine, the project has been a major success and has made significant advancements in the use of BCI for medical purposes.
The TOBI project was comprised of three different types of experiments. Each experiment involved subjects with severe disabilities. The individuals wore specially designed caps fitted with electrodes. The caps picked up the electrical signals from the user’s brain and transmitted them to a computer. The subjects were taught how to control objects simply by thinking of the desired outcome.
In the first experiment, subjects learned to use their mind to control a computer cursor to type messages via email and text. This enabled some of them to communicate for the first time in years, and allowing them full access to the Internet.
The second experiment enabled the subjects to use their brainwaves to control a small remote-control telepresence robot to take them for virtual walks and meet with other people.
In the third experiment, users were able to use their mind control to power electrodes fitted to their disabled limbs in order to stimulate actual movement. For some subjects, this experiment was so successful that, with intensive training, they were still able to move their limbs even after the electrodes were removed.
One participant, 53-year-old Jean-Luc Geiser, was left completely paralyzed and unable to speak after a stroke. Thanks to TOBI, Geiser was able to communicate by typing messages via computer using his brainwaves to control the cursor. In an interview with E&T‘s Tereza Pultarova, Geiser wrote “participating in this project allowed me to see that I can still be useful to society.”
Image Credit: ec.europa.eu