A revolutionary technology that could change the lives of people with disabilities is developed by a company based in the United States, Blackrock Neurotech. Since 2004, approximately three dozen people have participated in research studies using NeuroPort Array chip devices in hopes of dramatically improving the lives of people with paralysis, depression and physical disabilities.
The company aims for the device to eventually control robotic arms and electric wheelchairs using users’ minds, but this technology is still in the experimental stage and far from commercially available. A man named Nathan Copeland, who suffered a serious spinal injury in a car accident in 2004, is one of the pioneers of this technology, having received his implant in 2014.
He achieved “sensory feedback through intracortical microstimulation,” which allowed him to interact with his environment in new ways. The implantable network allows people to connect directly to computers, control robotic arms and wheelchairs, play video games, and even regain sensation, all with just their brain signals.
The implant accesses the person’s thoughts through 100 micro-needles that read electrical signals produced by the brain, which are decoded using machine learning.
This device has the potential to perform complex tasks, such as using a computer or drawing a portrait; even then, important ethical and regulatory considerations must be taken into account before the implant can be used outside the laboratory – According to Unilad, Blackrock Neurotech must obtain FDA approval if the implant is to leave the laboratory and interface with tools.
Despite the challenges, the company’s long-term vision is for the implant to become as readily available to people with paralysis as pacemakers are to people with heart conditions. If approved and tested properly, the implant could significantly improve the quality of life for people with severe disabilities and other conditions.
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