ABC (Augmented BNCI Communication)

Objectives

ABC aimed at increasing human capabilities by means of Brain/Neural Computer Interfaces (BNCI). The project has developed applications addressed primarily to persons with Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy (DCP). Due to DCP particular conditions, BNCI-based systems present a huge potential for the improvement of the quality of life and the promotion of the independent living of this target group. In particular, project outcomes specifically focused on the augmentation of capabilities related to communication, learning, social participation and control of devices. ABC system is composed by four independent modules based on the latest advancements on BNCI signal processing, Affective Computing, Augmented Communication and Biosignal Monitoring. The reference European research institutions in each field led the R&D work.

DCP end-users and care professionals have been involved in R&D tasks from design to validation. To involve effectively persons with DCP into the design process, new user-centred design methods were developed. The project has delivered a functional prototype of ABC system, validated and working in out-of-lab contexts. The modular structure of ABC system and the independence of its components  extends its exploitation potential beyond the initial DCP niche. Different combinations of the modules could be integrated into other assistive product niches such as people with multiple sclerosis or quadriplegia. Moreover, ABC modules (both combined or stand-alone) have the potential to become part of mainstream applications benefiting from the augmentation of human capabilities such as gaming, e-learning, work safety or driving assistance among others.

Outcome

  • Development of a set of methodologies to involve DCP users along the chain of product design and development (“R1: DCP user centered methodologies”). These methodologies enable extracting user preferences and opinions independently of the level of motor control, writing and speaking.
  • Adaptation of current BNCI algorithms to specific characteristics of DCP users. Common algorithms of processing feature extraction and classification have been modified according to pathological patterns given by disorders of the Central Nervous System, such as spastic or reflex movements.

  • Reduction of effects of noisy signals and artifacts that contaminate EEG signals to optimize the Signal to Noise Ratio.

  • Detection of the emotional state of DCP users, to express this state and to help to manage their emotions (“R3: Affective Computing Module”). The system is portable and detects the emotional state through DCP physiological response, distinguishing five states: from high negative emotion to high positive emotion.

  • Implementation of a Health management Module (“R4: Health monitoring Module”). ABC project provides a portable tool able a) to detect  health problems of DCP users and send emergency alerts, and b) to help DCP users to control their health condition.

The ABC software is downloadable from the following link: http://www.abc-project.eu/index.php/software.

Screenshot of the ABC Communicator
ABC Communicator, which allows the upload of different libraries depending on the preferences and abilities of the user.
ABC user testing framework, which includes hardware and software components.
The results of affective computing studies confirmed that users can distinguish sound ratings for categories pleasant and unpleasant clearly.

We brought to the project:

  • Research experience on machine learning algorithms 
  • Improvement on our user testing framework 
  • Knowledge in the areas of affective computing, wearables and web of things

Consortium

  • Four leading research organisations in the area of Brain Computer Interface, Affective Computing, Accessibility and HCI  (two research institutes and two universities):
    • Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology FIT (Germany)
    • Instituto de Biomecánica de Valencia (Spain)
    • Eberhard Karls Universitaet Tuebingen (Germany)
    • Technische Universitaet Graz (Austria)
  • Three SMEs providing technical development of sensors, consultancy and exploitation strategy
    • Agencia estatal Consejo Superior De Investigaciones Cientificas (Spain) 
    • PLUX, Engenharia De Biosensores LDA (Portugal)
    • TechNaid SL (Spain)
  • Two end-user organisations with a long track record in European and national R&D projects, assistive technology and advanced interfaces:
    • Fondazione Santa Lucia (Italy)
    • Asociación Valenciana de Ayuda a la Parálisis Cerebral (Spain)