On 7th June 2008, Keio University succeeded in the world’s first demonstration experiment with the help of a disabled person to use brainwave to chat and stroll through the virtual world.
The research group led by Assistant Prof. Junichi Ushiba of the Faculty of Science and Technology of Keio University applied the technology “to operate the computer using brain images released last year and succeeds in enabling a disabled person suffering muscle disorder (41 year old male) to stroll through “Second Life®*”, a three-dimentional virtual world on the Internet, to walk towards the avatar of a student logged in at Keio University located 16km from the subject’s home, and to have a conversation with the student using the “voice chat” function.
This demonstration experiment opens a new possibility for motion-impaired people in serious conditions to communicate with others and to engage in business. This experiment is a marriage of leading-edge technologies in brain science and the Internet, and is the world’s first successful example to meet with people and have conversation in the virtual world.
This research is an achievement of the Biomedical Research Project at Keio University, a collaboration project of the Faculty of Science and Technology, Tsukigase Rehabilitation Center and the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine of the School of Medicine. This experiment was demonstrated at the 17th Keio University Faculty of Science and Technology Open Lecture on 7th June 2008.
About the technology
The system uses electrodes as small as 1cm in diameter that are attached to the scalp. A computer detects brainwaves from the sensory-motor cortex when the subject slightly moves fingers of his/her right and left hand, and moves the avatar accordingly. The computer also detects the subject’s will to move forward, and makes the avatar move forward.
The system released last year used a desktop computer, but the new system uses a portable electroencephalograph commercially available, and made it possible to bring the system to the subject’s home. The subject walks toward the avatar controlled by a student, and talks to it. Moving images of this demonstration experiment can be seen at the following website: http://www.bme.bio.keio.ac.jp/01news/
Development in the Future
Detection of brainwaves will become more accurate, which will lead to smoother control of avatars. The technology will be used to develop communication tools and business tools to support the lives of people with serious movement disorders.
*Second Life® is a 3-D virtual community, created and operated by U.S.-based company Linden Lab, with a growing population from more than 100 countries around the globe. Residents of Second Life® can create their own homes, vehicles, nightclubs, stores, landscapes, clothes and games. They control avatars, which are characters to replace themselves, to stroll through the virtual world and teleport. Chatting with other residents and commercial activities are also possible. Linden dollars, the virtual currency used in Second Life® can be changed to real US dollars.
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