Born in Mexico, Alcaide immigrated as a toddler and grew up in Seattle. Watching his uncle cope with severe injuries resulting from a car accident, he committed to a life of helping the disabled interact with the world around them. Alcaide studied electrical engineering at the University of Washington and moved to Ann Arbor to work at the University of Michigan on his doctorate in neuroscience. His research focused on helping children with cerebral palsy take cognitive tests when they couldn’t otherwise communicate.
Interpreting brain activity may sound like magic, but it isn’t. Detecting the brain’s electrical activity is actually easy, Alcaide explains. The real problem, he believes, is isolating the signals that indicate meaningful intent on the part of a user from non-useful electrical “noise.” He likens it to trying to follow a conversation at a crowded cocktail party with many nearby speakers.
Neurable’s machine learning software improves on previous approaches with better filters as well as an important new predictive capability. Even when the desired signal is too weak to be captured and interpreted, their software can fill in the gaps with helpful accuracy.
The possibilities are intriguing: an intuitive, easy to use system that could augment today’s awkward and sometimes frustrating solutions for controlling software or hardware experiences. If the technology works, some say it could transform the augmented and virtual reality industries—freeing users at last from the limitations of mechanical controllers, hand and body gestures, eye trackers, and voice recognition.
“Instead of just pressing a button to create magic, imagine actually willing magic to happen. That’s the future we want to create with Neurable,” Alcaide boldly declares.
James Gardner, Pamela Bump, Olivia Tardif, Sarah Schroeder and Shreya Iyer all contributed to this year’s 40 Under 40. Learn more about their work in the “About the Authors” section!
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