New brain-computer interfaces

El campo de las interfaces persona-máquina ha experimentado un fuerte impulso en los últimos tiempos debido a la madurez que han adquirido tecnologías como el procesado de imágen, de voz o de información proveniente de diversos sensores, como acelerómetros. Dicha madurez se ha reflejado en la aparición de productos comerciales que han tenido gran acogida, como es el caso de la Nintendo Wii o la Xbox Kinect, ambos en el campo de los videojuegos y, más recientemente, los dispositivos BCI (brain computer interface) como el Emotiv EPOC o el Neurosky MindSet

interfaces para personas con discapacidad severa videojuegos sistemas de recomendación rehabilitación Activas, o aquellas que el usuario es capaz de generar conscientemente. Por ejemplo, cuando se visualiza mentalmente un movimiento físico. Se suelen usar para “grabar comandos” o, lo que es lo mismo, asociar acciones a pensamientos: imaginar el movimiento de la mano derecha puede significar girar a la derecha el cursor en una pantalla. Reactivas, o aquellas evocadas tras la presentación de un estímulo externo. Pasivas, como “emoción”, “concentración”, “tristeza”, etc.

In recent years, human-computer interfaces have changed dramatically thanks to the maturity of innovative technologies such as image, voice or information analysis from different sensors as accelerometers. In fact, some successful market products have taken advantage of these technologies: Nintendo Wii and Xbox Kinect are good examples in the field of video games. More recently, several BCI (brain computer interface) devices have appeared in the market such as Emotiv EPOC or Neurosky MindSet

At the same time, neuroscience has evolved significantly during the last decades of the past century. There are still many open questions about how the brain works but, however, we are already able to measure and interpret the responses to certain external stimuli. We also know which brain regions are used to achieve different activities, like motor movements. All this knowledge has allowed to build brain-computer interfaces, also known as BCI. The aim of a BCI is to establish a communication channel that translates human thoughts into external commands for controlling a computer or any other device. Until recently, measurement of such signals required expensive and sophisticate medical instrumentation. But nowadays there are some commercial devices in the market. They are portable and inexpensive, so their usage should give a boost to BCI technology.

Some application areas for BCI are:

  • assistance to disable people;
  • video games;
  • recommendation systems;
  • rehabilitation

Depending on how the signals are generated they can be classified into:

  • Active signals: the user can control them. It is possible to “record a thought” and to reproduce it whenever the user wants. This way, we can associate that thought to an action or a command. For example, imagining that the right hand moves may mean to move the cursor on a screen to the right.
  • Reactive signals: they appear after some external stimulus
  • Passive signals: like emotion or sadness

In addition to signal processing, graphical user interfaces are another key element of BCI systems. They allow to return feedback to the user. Gradiant is working on this topic to position itself at the cutting edge of this technology.

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