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A computer controlled by the power of thought alone has been demonstrated at a major trade fair in Germany.
The device could provide a way for paralysed patients to operate computers, or for amputees to operate electronically controlled artificial limbs. But it also has non-medical applications, such as in the computer games and entertainment industries.
The Berlin Brain-Computer Interface (BBCI) – dubbed the "mental typewriter" – was created by researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute in Berlin and Charité, the medical school of Berlin Humboldt University in Germany. It was shown off at the CeBit electronics fair in Hanover, Germany.
The machine makes it possible to type messages onto a computer screen by mentally controlling the movement of a cursor. A user must wear a cap containing electrodes that measure electrical activity inside the brain, known as an electroencephalogram (EEG) signal, and imagine moving their left or right arm in order to manoeuvre the cursor around.