At The Brain's Gate

Not long ago, I discussed the sports videogamer as postmodern puppeteer:

What is interesting is that instead of strings controlling the puppet, there is a stream of digital bits travelling back-and-forth down the controller cord (and perhaps soon wirelessly?) to control the virtual character. Instead of the puppeteer using a complex series of arm, elbow and wrist movements to position the puppet, the code or combination of movements required to position the virtual character is now enacted by one's fingers and thumbs — one's digits.

So the controller's movements have transformed from originating in the core trunk muscles, down the limbs, to the digits. Perhaps in the future EEG signals will prevent any muscular movement from being necessary at all.

As it turns out, it was a future with a very short time horizon. Meet Matt Nagle, a 25-year-old C4 quadriplegic (paralyzed from the neck down), who is the first human fitted with the BrainGate Neural Interface.

Relevance: he can beat you at PONG, that early videogame representation of tennis, without lifting a finger but rather by thinking the moves, which is perhaps the most vivid example to date of the shift from the analog to the digital.


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