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Write letters in only 35 hours with brain speller

People who use Guger Technologies' Intendix wave speller will need oceans of patience if a CeBIT demo is any indication.

Reading about Lenovo's eye-popping gaze-controlled laptop being shown at the CeBit tech fair this week, we were excited to see a demo of Guger Technologies' Indendix brain speller machine.

As we mentioned last year, Intendix is an electroencephalography (EEG) device that lets users type with their minds. Guger calls it the world's first commercial brain-machine interface for personal use. It's designed for disabled or paralyzed people.

The system consists of an electrode cap, a flashing display of letters, a compact brain wave amplifier, and a Windows-based program. By focusing on each letter, users can generate brain waves that the device can recognize. Guger says most patients can type 5-10 characters per minute after training.

The company showed off Intendix at Cebit in Hannover, Germany, and IDG recorded a demo. Recent improvements include shorter setup time and shorter training. But when first-time user Martyn Williams tried it out, the results were a bit of a reality check.

Intendix lets you type with your mind--if you have the patience. Guger Technologies

As seen in the vid above, it took Williams about five minutes of concentration to type only three letters with his mind (he was told that intelligence doesn't affect the results).

At that rate, it would take about 35 hours to type a letter of 250 words, assuming an average of five characters per word (and this doesn't include the time it takes to type spaces and punctuation marks). With Guger's more optimistic estimate of typing five characters a minute, it would take four hours.

Still, that's twice as fast as the time it reportedly took French journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby to type "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," an account of his struggle with the paralysis of locked-in syndrome, by blinking one eye at an assistant for two months.

Doubtless Bauby would have benefited from Intendix (he died a few days after his best-selling memoir was published), as will others with severe paralysis for whom patience is a necessity.