Realistic Expectations with Brain Computer Interfaces

Maurice Mulvenna, G Lightbody, Eileen Thomson, PJ McCullagh, Melanie Ware, Suzanne Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
96 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose – This paper describes the research underpinning the development and evaluation of a brain computer interface (BCI) system designed to be suitable for domestic use by people with acquired brain injury in order to facilitate control of their home environment. The purpose of the research is to develop a robust and user-friendly BCI system which was customisable in terms of user ability, preferences and functionality. Specifically the human interface was designed to provide consistent visual metaphors in usage, while applications change, for example, from environmental control to entertainment and communications.Design/methodology/approach – The research took a user centred design approach involving representative end-users throughout the design and evaluation process. A qualitative study adopting user interviews alongside interactive workshops highlighted the issues that needed to be addressed in the development of a user interface for such a system. User validation then underpinned prototype development.Findings – The findings of the research indicate that while there are still significant challenges in translating working BCI systems from the research laboratories to the homes of individuals with acquired brain injuries, participants are keen to be involved in the deign and development of such systems. In its current stage of development BCI is multi-facetted and uses complex software, which poses a significant usability challenge. This work also found that the performance of the BCI paradigm chosen was considerably better for those users with no disability than for those with acquired brain injury. Further work is required to identify how and whether this performance gap can be addressed. Research limitations/implications – The research had significant challenges in terms of managing the complexity of the hardware and software set-up and transferring the working systems to be tested by participants in their home. Furthermore, the authors believe that the development of assistive technologies for the disabled user requires a significant additional level of personalisation and intensive support to the level normally required for non-disabled users. Coupled with the inherent complexity of BCI, this leads to technology that does not easily offer a solution to both disabled and non-disabled users. Originality/value – The research contributes additional findings relating to the usability of BCI systems. The value of the work is to highlight the practical issues involved in translating such systems to participants where the acquired brain injury can impact on the ability of the participant to use the BCI system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-245
JournalJournal of Assistive Technologies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2012


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