A paralysed man has made the first “direct-thought tweet” using his mind – all thanks to a computer chip implanted in his brain.
Philip O’Keefe from Australia suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive nervous system disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
Developed by neurovascular bioelectronics medicine company Synchron, the chips allow patients to carry out computer tasks using just their minds.
“No need for keystrokes or voices. I created this tweet just by thinking it,” the tweet read, posted to the account of Synchron CEO Thomas Oxley.
no need for keystrokes or voices. I created this tweet just by thinking it. #helloworldbci— Thomas Oxley (@Thomas Oxley) 1640218428
O’Keefe shared several more tweets replying to questions from Twitter users.
@chriskellnerMD Through bci— Thomas Oxley (@Thomas Oxley) 1640218688
@maverick_am_i yes gui— Thomas Oxley (@Thomas Oxley) 1640218877
“My hope is that I’m paving the way for people to tweet through thoughts,” he concluded.
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The 62-year-old had the chip implanted in April 2020 when his condition started to deteriorate to the stage where he could not carry out work-related tasks and other activities. It reportedly took four hours for the device to work.
“When I first heard about this technology, I knew how much independence it could give back to me,” O’Keefe said, according to Synchron’s press release.
“The system is astonishing, it’s like learning to ride a bike – it takes practice, but once you’re rolling, it becomes natural. Now, I just think about where on the computer I want to click, and I can email, bank, shop, and now message the world via Twitter.”
“These fun holiday tweets are actually an important moment for the field of implantable brain computer interfaces,” added Synchron boss Thomas Oxley.
“They highlight the connection, hope and freedom that BCIs give to people like Phil who have had so much of their functional independence taken away due to debilitating paralysis.”
The study of Synchron’s brain computer interface is set to kick off next year. The company is one of several making developments in BCI technologies, along with Elon Musk’s Neuralink set to start human trials in 2022.