Italian scientists from the Roman Research Institute “Santa Lucia Foundationhave created an experimental model of a system that allows people with disabilities to control home appliances with their minds.

The so-called ASPICE project involves a system that makes it possible for a disabled person to easier interact with the surrounding environment while also speeding up the process of recovering their mobility. At the same time, the system also aims to help patients with incurable conditions where they have no or low possibilities to recover their motor abilities.

Researchers have created a brain-computer interface (BCI) that allows the user to communicate and control the environment, such as household appliances. BCIs read the person’s brain activity and translate the signals from the brain into commands, such as turning the light on and off or answering a phone call. The disabled person will thus have the possibility to control home appliances and domestic devices remotely. BCIs can even be used to train particular cognitive functions, thus contributing to the rehabilitation process.

While most systems and devices based on BCIs are invasive, the researchers managed to develop a method that makes it possible to receive brain signals right from the person’s scalp. It uses a special cap covered in electrodes which looks like a swimming cap, so a user can easily put it on themselves.

The ASPICE project is not the only invention that is based on a brain-computer interface. Scientists at Santa Lucia Foundation have also created a mind-controlled exoskeleton that allows disabled people, such as stroke survivors or patients with spinal cord injuries, to walk again. The project has received a fancy name ‘Mindwalker’.

Inventors will soon start clinical trials that will involve volunteers who suffer from spinal cord injuries. They believe that if they manage to introduce these impressive mind-controlled devices into the market, they could prove useful among people with disabilities and will be simply indispensable for astronauts with a weakened muscle system due to long stay in weightless conditions.

Anna LeMind, B.A.

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