Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have demonstrated a device which can control the movements of a wheelchair when its operator thinks of specific words.
The Audeo is a human-computer interface consisting of a neckband containing sensors which detect the electrical signals sent by the brain to the muscles in the larynx. The signals are transmitted wirelessly to a computer, which decodes them and matches them to pre-programmed signals before sending them to the wheelchair.
The Audeo was developed by Michael Callahan and Thomas Coleman, who together set up a company called Ambient to refine the technology. They say that the signals can also be sent to a speech synthesizer.
The device detects the electrical signals generated by the brain when one is thinking of speaking. It would, therefore, be of beneift to people who have lost the ability to speak coherently but still have control over the larynx. It is not yet commercially available, but it is available to researchers carrying out research in similar fields.
Read more about the Audeo at New Scientist.