The BCMI device is worn on a person’s head and picks up electrical signals from the brain based on where the wearer is looking on a screen. It is this electroencephalograph headset that helps people with disabilities create music.
On the screen there are four different options for the next phrase of music, which the wearer selects by focusing on a chequered panel corresponding with their choice. The score is then relayed to a musician who reads and plays the wearer’s creation, two bars at a time in real time.
Rosemary Johnson has recently been the beneficiary of this technology, using it to play music for the first time since an accident 27 years ago left her unable to move or speak. Before the accident, Rosemary was a promising violin talent with the Welsh National Opera Orchestra, and Professor Eduardo Miranda, director of the program, said that the effect on the patients is “really very moving. The first time we tried with Rosemary we were in tears. We could feel the joy coming from her at being able to make music.”
Although the technology has been around for a decade, the hefty price tag (at least US$15,000) has stopped it from becoming widely used. Check out the video below to see it in use.