Autonomy and social inclusion through mixed reality Brain-Computer Interfaces: Connecting the disabled to their physical and social world
Severe cognitive or physical disabilities from any origin have a dramatic effect on autonomy, intimacy or dignity, and, by extension, on quality of life. A person with a severe brain injury resulting from a car collision or those suffered a brain stroke are examples of disabilities of neurologic nature. For years, the severely disabled have learned to cope with their restricted autonomy, restricting their daily activities like moving around or turning on the lights and limiting their social interaction.
The BrainAble project is about empowering them to mitigate this barriers of the everyday life to which those individuals are confronted. BrainAble has researched, designed and validated an ICT-based HCI (Human Computer Interface) based on BNCI (Brain Neural Computer Interface) sensors combined with affective computing to control smarthome services and virtual environments.
This combination is expected to improve their quality of life of the severe disabled by overcoming the two main shortcomings they suffer (1) at home by providing inner functional independence for daily life activities and autonomy withaccessible and interoperable smarthome services; and (2) enabling the participation in social activities with adapted social networks services.
BrainAble improves both direct and indirect interaction between the user and ICT services. Interaction is upgraded by creating tools that allow controlling inner and outer environments using a “hybrid” Brain Computer Interface (BNCI) system, combining diferent BCI techniques and BCIs with other inputs such as EOG or EMG signals. BrainAble also proposes a novel BCI training paradigm with the auto-calibration Adaptive ERD BCI paradigm, which allows for a very quick and highly effective setup of an ERD based BCI requiring only a minimal amount of sensors and no expert knowledge. Finally, BrainAble’s BNCI also takes into account other input coming from the physiological and affective sensors increasing the BNCI performance to measure levels of alertness and fatigue, and detect and handle spasms.
BNCI first-time users are often confused and overwhelmed. While this BNCI familiarization takes place, BrainAble proposes an intelligent Virtual Reality-based user interface with avatars and scenarios that will help the disabled move around freely, and interact with any sort of devices as their first contact with BNCI. VR also enables the users to play serious games to counteract cognitive decline, and get trained in new functionalities and tasks.