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Brain Interface Lets Paralyzed Man Walk in 'Second Life'

A Japanese man, almost fully paralyzed, can walk again — in the virtual world "Second Life."

Researchers led by Jun'ichi Ushiba of the Keio University created a brain-computer interface (BCI) that let the 41-year-old patient operate a PC using only his thoughts.

• Click here to see video of the system being used.

Previous BCI studies have had patients simply move cursors around a display. Ushiba took it further by letting the unnamed patient, crippled by a progressive muscle condition for most of his life, take control of an avatar, or virtual person, in the popular online environment.

The BCI was implanted in the man's motor cortex — signals that would have made his own arms and legs move instead went to the avatar's, which in effect became a virtual body.

Ushiba said the next step would be to let users who are unable to speak to "type" through brain activity.

• Click to read more about this from Agence France-Presse and the Pink Tentacle blog.