Every breath you take
July 26, 2010 10:35 PM   Subscribe

Scientists in Israel have developed a system that allows (some, not all) people who are "locked in" to type messages by simply holding and releasing their breath. The system was also adapted to control a wheelchair, notably in a manner that can't be disrupted by jarring or bumpy terrain.

The prototype of the sensor device built in the lab cost only US$ 358 (£231, C$ 370, AU$ 397, ₨ 16842) in parts.

Indian rupees, apologies for the incorrect currency sign as the new one isn't in Unicode yet.
posted by XMLicious (7 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
It occurs to me that this might be used by injured people in intensive care who are intubated but conscious and temporarily lack the motor control to write messages by hand. With its low cost I wonder if it will become ubiquitous in a few years.

I was also thinking that they might be able to get faster typing speeds by simply using Morse code.
posted by XMLicious at 10:41 PM on July 26, 2010

He slowly lays his head down on the desk at 1:12pm, heavily sedated by Pho. Drool pools at the edge of his lips...fanning out onto the desk in a slow tide of lethargy and sloth. His eyes stare, motionless, at a blank wall. They do not blink.

Hi I'm TV's Brett Favre. To the untrained eye our friend here comatose, or maybe experiencing a stroke. But in fact he is simultaneously updating the company's quarterly financial statements, writing an email to his wife about dinner and texting his friend in Qatar. All with just a wisp of his stinking coffee breath.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:06 PM on July 26, 2010

Neat! And no facilitated "communication" required!
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:31 PM on July 26, 2010

Neat! And no facilitated "communication" required!

Facilitated communication is such a creepy sociological phenomenon. If anyone is interested, Frontline's documentary is excellent.

This clip makes my blood run cold every time.
posted by Taft at 11:48 PM on July 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

Essentially, this is a form of "switch". In assistive technology a switch can be deployed to control hardware or software, termed an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) system. Depending on your cognitive level you can simply signal yes or no or use a whole control panel to produce text or control a system. For example, in Motor Neurone disease, the anal sphincter can still be operative so you use some kind of switch device inserted into the anus to control the system. You might use your head, or one finger, or blinking, or looking in one direction. You're really only limited by cognitive ability, funding, and bloody-mindedness. See also Stephen Hawking.

For example, you have a grid of letters. Every second a different row is highlighted. When you get to the row with the letter you want, you activate your switch. Now each letter in the row is highlighted in turn, and you activate your switch when you get to the letter you want. And over and over again. This is called "scanning". It also requires sight or hearing, obviously, and a high level of cognitive function.
posted by alasdair at 5:20 AM on July 27, 2010

Just another reason to turn off the microphone in your computer unless you are using it. You know this research comes first from advanced listening. I bet they have vast archives of people engaging in everyday discussions, non-discussions, pleasures, perversions, you name it. Oh never mind, the idea that anything is private is hopeless romanticism.
posted by Oyéah at 9:07 AM on July 27, 2010

Are you saying that these researchers obtained their data by hacking into peoples' laptops and turning their microphones on?
posted by zixyer at 9:17 AM on July 27, 2010

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