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A man paralyzed from the neck down has gained the ability to type words with his brain about as fast as the average smartphone user, a new study says. This “mindwriting” was done through a science-fiction sounding brain-computer interface (BCI) that picked up neural signals and fed them into an algorithm which translated them into letters. The secret to the success, and why this particular BCI was able to produce words at such a faster rate than other BCI’s in the past, was that it tracked the brain signals of the patient, known as T5, as he imagined writing them down with a pen—a skill which imprints so thoroughly on our motor skill system that it remains for years after paralysis evidently. The man was 65 at the time of the study, but it was 2007 when he suffered his spinal cord injury. “With this BCI, our study participant achieved typing speeds of 90 characters per minute with 94.1% raw accuracy online, and greater than 99% accuracy offline with a general-purpose autocorrect,” wrote the authors, whose paper can be read in Nature.

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