Patient with ALS in Australia first person to tweet using direct thought via brain-computer interface

Synchron, a brain computer interface company, today announced a Twitter takeover by Philip O’Keefe, one of the patients implanted with the Stentrode brain computer interface. Mr. O’Keefe is the first person to successfully message the world on social media directly through thought using an implantable brain computer interface.

Mr. O’Keefe, a 62-year-old man with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), successfully turned his direct thought to text via Twitter when he messaged “Hello World” using the Stentrode brain computer interface.

When I first heard about this technology, I knew how much independence it could give back to me. The system is astonishing, it’s like learning to ride a bike – it takes practice, but once you’re rolling, it becomes natural.

Now, I just think about where on the computer I want to click, and I can email, bank, shop, and now message the world via Twitter.

Philip O’Keefe

Mr. O’Keefe took over the Twitter handle of Synchron CEO, Thomas Oxley, MD, PhD, @tomoxl, using the hashtag #HelloWorldBCI. Mr. O’Keefe’s goal was to share his experience of regaining independence with the world and offer inspiration for the future.

“My hope is that I’m paving the way for people to tweet through thoughts,” was his closing statement.

Philip received the endovascular Stentrode brain computer interface in April 2020 following progressive paralysis caused by ALS which left him unable to engage in work-related or other independent activities. Mr. O’Keefe has since been using the technology to reconnect with his family, and business colleagues continuing email exchanges and staying actively involved in his consultancy and other business projects.

“These fun holiday tweets are actually an important moment for the field of implantable brain computer interfaces. They highlight the connection, hope and freedom that BCIs give to people like Phil who have had so much of their functional independence taken away due to debilitating paralysis,” said Thomas Oxley, MD, PhD, CEO, Synchron. “We look forward to advancing our brain computer interface, Stentrode, in the first U.S. in-human study next year.”

Synchron’s flagship technology, the Stentrode is an endovascular brain implant designed to enable patients to wirelessly control digital devices through thought and improve functional independence. Synchron’s foundational technology, a motor neuroprosthesis (MNP), is implanted via the jugular vein using neurointerventional techniques commonly used to treat stroke, and does not require drilling into the skull or open brain surgery. The system is designed for patients suffering from paralysis as a result of a broad range of conditions, and aims to be user friendly and dependable for patients to use autonomously.

More information on BusinessWire here.

The Captcha Conundrum & Accessible Alternatives

How to tell legitimate users apart from automated systems in an accesible way has been a problem for developers of accessible web sites for a long time. Here at Visits Unlimited we use invisible systems on comment, contact and log in forms that minimise the risk of causing accessibility problems but even these can cause problems on occasion.

Raghavendra Satish Peri has written an interesting article at discussing different methods, their advantages and disadvantages, and problems on the methods used by very large sites.

…I wanted to contribute to the accessibility pages on Wikipedia recently and decided to make an account. I thought the process would be easy to register and start making edits, but I was quickly proved wrong. It requires solving a CAPTCHA.

I thought there might be an alternative method to complete my registration, but the whole exercise to find an alternative on Wikipedia frustrated me. In fact, I never found an alternative that day that used audio or a one-time confirmation code sent to a mobile device.

This is what it’s like to be a visually impaired person who uses the internet. Even the world’s most popular sites aren’t completely accessible.

You can read the full article on Digital A11Y’s accessibility blog here.