This is an awesome use of a brain-computer interface developed for disabled people to navigate in the 3D virtual world of Second Life, using a simple interface controlled by the user's thought:
Developed by an Austrian medical engineering firm called G.Tec, the prototype in the video above was released last year, but since New Scientist wrote about the project recently, and since it's one of the few real world applications of Second Life that's already showing tangible, scalable, incredibly important social results, I checked with the company for an update:
"The technology is already on the market for spelling," G.Tec's Christoph Guger tells me, pointing to a company called Intendix. "The SL control will be on the market in about one year." I imagine there are many disabled people in SL right now who would benefit from this, and many more not in SL who could, once it's on the market. (A Japanese academic created a similar brain-to-SL interface in 2007, but to my knowledge, there are no commercial plans for it as yet.)
Guger shared some insights on how the technology works, and the disabled volunteers who helped them develop it:
G. Tec test volunteers and interface, courtesy Christoph Guger
Above is a pic of the main G. Tec interface with all the basic SL commands. There are other UIs for chatting (with 55 commands) and searching (with 40 commands.)
Not surprisingly, Guger tells me their disabled volunteers enjoyed flying in Second Life most. "It is of course slower than with the keyboard/mouse," Guger allows, "but the big advantage is that you appear as a normal user in SL, even if you are paralyzed."
This brain-to-SL interface literally gives housebound disabled people a world to explore, and a means to meet and interact with as many people there, as live in San Francisco; that in itself is an absolute good. But beyond that, Guger sees other medical applications: "First of all you can use it for monitoring, if the patient is still engaged and as a tool to measure his performance. Beside that, it gives access to many other people, which would not be possible otherwise. New games are also developed for ADHD children for example."
See more G.Tec videos here. And hopefully, we'll see more about this technology soon.
Much thanks to Extropia DaSilva for the link!