Right now you are reading from a computer screen. How did you control your computer to browse the internet – click on a link, scroll the page? Perhaps you used a mouse, a keyboard, a stylus or even your finger. Without hands how could you accomplish the same tasks? Human-machine interfaces (HMIs) are often designed to help patients with severe difficulties in mobility or communication. They use novel ways to turn actions or even thoughts into signals – anything from imagining a specific pattern of movement to voice control – to control a machine. The HMI pictured uses surface electromyography to sense muscle activity produced from specific vowel sounds. Used to perhaps move a wheelchair or click a mouse, this system is less invasive than other HMIs and is easy to learn. It could also enable users to multitask in ways many of us take for granted everyday.
Written by Mary-Clare Hallsworth
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.