MADISON, Wis. – The microblogging site Twitter has been described as the Web’s stream of consciousness .
In early April, a biomedical engineering doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison made strides in making it even more so: by posting updates just by thinking about it.
The Wisconsin Technology Network News reports that Adam Wilson has updated his tweets by using his brain.
Wilson’s interface for turning thoughts into tweets involves a keyboard displayed on a screen, with each letter flashing individually in sequence. When the letter a subject is looking at flashes, the brain registers a change in what it was paying attention to, which causes a change in the brain’s electrical signals.
Wilson compared the process to sending a text message on a cell phone without a keyboard. “You have to press a button four times to get the character you want, so this is kind of a slow process at first.”Wilson and other researchers on the project hope to develop a way for people immobilized by stroke or spinal cord injury to communicate.
“It’s in tune with what patients want,” Purdue University biomedical engineer Kevin Otto told Wired . “Social networking and communication is really their first desire. There’s been quite a bit of success, and a few demonstrations, helping people to e-mail. But the same reason why people choose Twitter and Facebook over e-mail is the same reason why this is significant.”
Wilson’s first Twitter update using the technology was “USING EEG TO SEND TWEET.” Since then he has transmitted “GO BADGERS” and “SPELLING WITH MY BRAIN.”