Stephen Hawking is testing out a groundbreaking device to allow him to communicate through brain waves in a project that scientists have likened to ‘hacking into his brain.’
Hawking, 70, has been working with scientists at Stanford University who are developing a the iBrain – a tool which picks up brain waves and communicates them via a computer.
The scientist, who has motor neurone disease and lost the power of speech nearly 30 years ago, currently uses a computer to communicate but is losing the ability as the condition worsens.
But he has been working with Philip Low, the inventor of the iBrain, a brain scanner that measures electrical activity.
“We’d like to find a way to bypass his body, pretty much hack his brain,” said Prof Low.
Researchers will unveil their latest results at a conference in Cambridge next month, and may demonstrate the technology on Hawking.
In a release for the conference, Hawking and Low described how the physicist had learnt to create patterns of impulses by imagining moving his hands and limbs.
It is hoped that as the technology becomes more advanced it could recognise more sophisticated brain activity and turn it into words.
Scientists hope that it may soon be able to “read a person’s mind,” playing a major role in a medical breakthrough.
“This is very exciting for us because it allows us to have a window into the brain. We’re building technology that will allow humanity to have access to the human brain for the first time,” said Prof Low.
“The emergence of such biomarkers opens the possibility to link intended movements to a library of words and convert them into speech, thus providing motor neurone sufferers with communication tools more dependent on the brain than on the body.”
Last summer, Low traveled to Cambridge where he met with Hawking, who was asked to think “very hard” about completing various tasks while wearing the device.
Beyond mind reading, the device has potential medical applications, such as enlisting the iBrain to help doctors prescribe the correct levels of medication based on a person’s brainwave responses.
In addition, Low says the iBrain could be used to help treat sleep disorders, depression and even autism.
This is the first step to personalized medicine,” Low said.