Thought-Wired, are a team of 5 consisting of:
Dr James Pau – Biomedical Engineer, Co-founder
Stuart McGill – Cognitive Neuroscientist
Sarvnaz Taherian – Research Psychologist, Co-founder
Sean Carmichael – Software Developer
Dmitry Selitskiy – CEO, Co-founder
They are based at Hobsonville Point Secondary School, Auckland, New Zealand
The team are currently researching and developing a brain-computer interface for people with severe physical disabilities, such as Motor Neuron Disease and Cerebral Palsy. The main aim is to create a completely physical free communication system, that utilises the electrical signals of the brain to control applications on a computer.
They have already done several studies to help understand the design requirements to build this system – including software, hardware and training/support components. The current study will be an evaluative, observational study that focuses on the experience of using the current prototype of this technology on people with Motor Neuron Disease.
The methodology is user-centred and incorporates both quantitative and qualitative methods. They want to look at how the training may help people master the technology (quantitative) and how they perceived using and interacting with the system (qualitative).
With the results of this study, they aim to improve upon their current prototype, so that it better meets the needs of the users.
Relationship to MND
Due to the progressive nature of motor neuron disease, people may get to a stage where no existing assistive technology can improve their functional abilities or enable them to communicate. Because brain-computer interfaces only rely on brain activity, it has the potential to assist people who have lost physical function and enable them to continue to participate and communicate later in the stages of the disease.
They may continue to test re-iterations of the technology design, as they have noticed that they learn the most when working with the actual customers.
It would be good to get an understanding of how many people currently live with MND, and what stages of the disease.
Thoughtwired are a multidisciplinary team who have been developing this technology for the past 5 years. There idea was inspired by the CEO, Dmitry, who has a cousin with severe cerebral palsy. No existing form of assistive technology works for him, but from his interactions, they know that he has a sound mind- he just lacks the physical ability to communicate his thoughts. Dmitry came across a TED talk that discussed this technology, which inspired him to try a create something useful for people who may be in a similar situation to his cousin.
From here, Sarvnaz and James came on board to help develop and test the proof of concept. Both have backgrounds in academia at the University of Auckland, and approached the development through psychological and technical approach. This meant that from the inception, they have been working with the disability community to understand the needs of all the people who would be using and interacting with the technology.
Stuart and Sean joined us in 2017 to accelerate our research and development cycles. Stuart leads the cognitive neuroscience research, to have a better understanding of how to capture neuro-data to improve our technology. Sean is a software developer, who puts together all of our design requirements.