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When Will Communications Technology Be Implanted in Humans?

brain implant
(Image: Getty Images)

As science and technology grow, so do the possibilities of how we humans function with one another. For example, simply two decades ago it was nearly impossible to send a friend a photo of where you were standing waiting for them in real time. Flip phones eventually got camera technology to make this possible, and then smart phones advanced that ability even further. As these technologies advance, they often get smaller and more efficient. In terms of smart technology we’ve seen the same type of growth happen. This leads a lot of people to ask a pretty big question though.  When will communications technology be implanted in humans? Listen to this  Question Your World radio report produced by the  Science Museum of Virginia to learn more.

Many people now have smart phones and watches for things like communications, daily planning, and even monitoring health. This quickly growing technology has also brought up the question of how long before we have smart devices implanted within our bodies. Some people are ready for this today, while many think this is not an ethical way for us to use science and technology. Our technological capabilities often out pace our collective ethical decision making. Regardless, for the time being we’re still quite a ways away from this being an off the shelf option for shoppers, but scientists have been exploring this topic for a myriad of different applications.

In the past scientists have worked on implant devices to monitor specific aspects of health, chips for tracking (like the one your pets may already have), or connecting someone to functions of their homes. Some of these are easily available everyday, like pet monitoring chips while technology like home connectivity are still in very experimental stages. However recently scientists have been working on an implant to help some people communicate with their loved ones and gain access to the internet simply through their minds...sort of.

Three individuals, all paralyzed from the neck down from spinal chord injuries, were given implants in their motor cortex, the part of the brain associated with planning, controlling, and executing voluntary motions. This particular implant has a blue tooth device built in to allow it to connect to a smart tablet. Remarkably this implant is able to take the thoughts of these individuals and translate them into text or functions on the tablet as if they were using their hands.

While this is a very invasive surgery, the results are quite incredible considering that this now allows these individuals a chance to text, email, browse the internet, do online shopping, and more. Scientists also observed that these individuals were able to do up to 20 clicks per minute and type up to 30 characters per minute, and most of all, all three users were happier knowing they could use the tablet.

Perhaps the coolest part about all of  this, is that the tablets were off the shelf technology with no alterations done to them whatsoever. The implant of course, is not off the shelf and is still under testing, but this is a great sign for individuals that have been in accidents or gone through physical illness which costs them the ability to function and communicate with others. If testing continues and proves to be a viable option for others, it would be a game changer for many individuals who are in similar situations as tthat of he three participants of this study.

There you go science and technology, making some pretty amazing things happen! More on this as this story develops in the future.

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