A new brain implant turns thoughts into text with 90 percent accuracy.

By imagining the motions of writing letters, a man with spinal injury was able to translate thoughts into text, at a speed that rivals thumb typing on a smartphone. At 90 characters per minute and an accuracy of over 90 percent after autocorrect, the system leapfrogs every record previously accomplished using neural implants.

The crux is an algorithm based on a popular and very powerful neural network—recurrent neural network (RNN)—plus a few tricks from the machine learning community. The result is a neural implant that uses AI to convert electrical brain signals, generated as someone imagines handwriting into text that’s displayed onto a computer in real time.

“This … could help restore communication in people who are severely paralyzed, or ‘locked-in,’” said study author Dr. Frank Willett at Stanford’s Neural Prosthetics Translational Laboratory. “It should help people express themselves and share their thoughts. It’s very exciting.”

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