Imec, world-leading research
in nano-electronics, Holst Centre and the lab of Neuro- and Psychophysiology
at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven today present the Mind Speller, a portable,
easy-to-wear, intelligent textual and verbal communications prototype device
enabling people with motoric disabilities (suffering from for example brain
paralysis or speech or language disorders) to communicate.
The Mind Speller is a EEG(electro-encephalogram)-based device that interprets
brain waves to spell words and phrases. It detects and interprets P300 event-related
potentials in the EEG-signals of a person that is selecting characters from
a display presenting alternate rows and columns of characters. P300 potentials
are often used as metrics of cognitive function in decision making processes.
However, currently available P300 devices are large, expensive and uncomfortable
in use. The Mind Speller, on the other hand, uses a portable device, not larger
than a matchbox, connected to a cap that contains electrodes located at specific
positions on the head to capture the relevant EEG-signals. The electronics in
the matchbox are developed by imec and Holst Centre. It contains imec and Holst
Centre’s proprietary ultra-low power 8-channel EEG-chip to process the
EEG signals, a commercially available low power microcontroller that digitizes
the EEG signals and a low power 2.4GHz radio that transmits the EEG signals
wirelessly to a nearby PC. The data is interpreted on the PC by powerful and
robust signal processing algorithms developed by the team of Prof. Marc Van
Hulle at the lab of neuro- and psychophysiology of the Katholieke Universiteit
Currently, accurate solutions are available on the market to help people to
communicate despite severe impairments. These solutions rely on either eye-tracking
technology or laser pointing. However, they are subject to long and vulnerable
calibration procedures and they are very expensive due to the technology used
and the need for tailor-made solutions.
“The Mind Speller is a generic device that can easily be adjusted to
different users. Therefore, it could become a cost-efficient communication solution
for people with temporal impairments for whom the existing solutions are too
expensive. Moreover, the Mind Speller may help those patients that are not helped
with the existing devices driven by motoric activity, as the Mind Speller is
based on a different principle, using P300 EEG potentials to read people’s
‘thoughts’”, says Prof. Marc Van Hulle from the lab of neuro-
and psychophysiology at the Katholieke Universiteit.
“With a much simpler design, relying on a power-efficient on-chip implementation,
the Mind Speller is the first step in the development of a generic, easy-to-wear,
accurate and cost-efficient communication solution for people with motoric disabilities;”
says Chris Van Hoof, Program Director Human++ at imec “Currently, we are
adapting the electronics to work with dry electrodes making the system even
Imec performs world-leading research in nano-electronics. Imec leverages its
scientific knowledge with the innovative power of its global partnerships in
ICT, healthcare and energy. Imec delivers industry-relevant technology solutions.
In a unique high-tech environment, its international top talent is committed
to providing the building blocks for a better life in a sustainable society.
Posted March 23rd, 2010