Synchron, a brain-computer interface startup, recently announced that Mr O’Keefe, a 62-year-old man with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), used a device implanted in his brain to convert his thoughts directly into tweets.
He is the first individual to use an implanted brain-computer interface (BCI) to efficiently connect with the rest of the world on social media. It is a watershed moment in science that could enable paralysed patients to communicate with the rest of the world.
Mr O’Keefe, who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), successfully converted his direct thought to text when he messaged “Hello World” on Twitter using the Stentrode BCI.
“Hello, world!”. “Short tweet. Monumental progress,” tweeted Philip O’Keefe.
Mr O’Keefe has taken over Synchron CEO Thomas Oxley’s Twitter account. Mr O’Keefe’s purpose was to inspire others by sharing his story of regaining independence with the entire globe.
“My hope is that I’m paving the way for people to tweet through thoughts,” he added in a follow-up message.
Philip had the endovascular Stentrode BCI in April 2020 due to worsening paralysis caused by ALS, leaving him unable to engage in work-related or other independent duties. However, Mr O’Keefe has now used technology to reunite with his family and business associates, keeping email discussions and engaging in his consultancy and other business endeavours.
“When I first heard about this technology, I knew how much independence it could give back to me,” O’Keefe said in a statement. “The system is astonishing; it’s like learning to ride a bike — it takes practice, but once you’re rolling, it becomes natural.”
“Now, I just think about where on the computer I want to click, and I can email, bank, shop, and now message the world via Twitter,” he added.
“These fun holiday tweets are actually an important moment for the field of implantable brain-computer interfaces,” Oxley said in a statement.
“They highlight the connection, hope and freedom that BCIs give to people like Phil who have had so much of their functional independence taken away due to debilitating paralysis.