New AI Brain Computer Interface for Healthcare Launched

Cognixion’s brain computer interface enables the speech-impaired to communicate.

Posted Oct 25, 2019

Andreas Forsland
Andreas Forsland
Source: Andreas Forsland

In October 2019, pioneering neurotech startup Cognixion launched a turn-key, non-invasive artificial intelligence (AI) brain computer interface solution for healthcare that enables the speech impaired to noninvasively communicate their thoughts. It was a traumatic personal experience with his mother that triggered Andreas Forsland to startup the AI neurotech company a little over half a decade prior.

The California sun was just starting to set in the horizon as Andreas Forsland rushed to the intensive care unit in Santa Barbara where his elderly mother was sedated, intubated and on life-support in 2012. The prognosis by the attending physician was grim—his mother was in septic shock due to advanced pneumonia, and was rapidly approaching kidney failure. “I hope you have your mother’s affairs in order,” advised the doctor to Forsland. “She is not going to make it.”

His mother awoke a few days later from the sedation, unable to speak. She could barely muster enough strength to do weak hand squeezes and slight eye movements to answer basic “yes” or “no” questions.

“Everybody in the world needs to be understood,” said Forsland. “It has huge implications. You can have things that have traumatic outcomes where someone totally misinterprets the body language of someone who is intubated and given a whole bunch of sedatives. Sedation has proven to be catastrophic on the body, especially over long periods of time.” Forsland views communication as not only important for those situations, but also for lifelong needs such as for maintaining friendships, being able to relate, and being able to go out and have more independence.

Forsland’s mother eventually regained consciousness and her ability to speak. She survived her near-death experience, but it took weeks in the intensive care unit, and nine months of belabored recovery. It was this traumatic experience that triggered Forsland to start up a brain computer interface company a year later.

Forsland founded Cognixion, formerly Smartstones, Inc., in 2013 with Leonard Zerman. The neurotech AI startup has offices in Santa Barbara, California, and Toronto, Ontario, and support from investors that include Sequel Venture Partners, The Roddenberry Foundation, and startup accelerator Aging2.0.  Cognixion has garnered industry awards including the 2017 Roddenberry Prize, 2016 Singularity University Grand Challenge in Learning, and the 2016 Gold Edison Award for Social Innovation. According to Forsland, the company already has over 40,000 customers.

The ability to communicate fundamentally unites human beings with each other. An estimated 40 million Americans have communication disorders according to The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Those with speech impediments are at risk for mental health issues such as negative self-esteem, feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression. Artificial intelligence (AI) is giving rise to innovative solutions to help those who are language impaired.

The brain computer interface (BCI) industry is an emerging market that may herald the next-generation of computing evolution. By 2022, the BCI market will increase to $1.72 billion globally according to a report published last year by Grand View Research, a U.S. based market research company headquartered in San Francisco. The main market segments for brain computer interface include healthcare, education, military, esports and gaming.

Technology pioneers are investing in the brain computer interface market. Bryan Johnson invested $100 million of his own fortune in 2016 to found Kernel, a non-invasive brain to machine interface to enhance human intelligence and extend cognition. Elon Musk announced in July 2019 his goal to have the first version of Neuralink, a Bluetooth-enabled device to connect an iPhone with sensors placed in the brain, to be tested in humans by the end of 2020.

In addition to Cognixion, Kernel and Neuralink, other brain computer interface companies include Paradromics, Halo Neuroscience, Neurable, MindMaze, Q30 Innovations, BIOS, NeuroPace, Neurosky, Cerêve, Inc., MELTIN MMI, Dreem, 4DForce GmbH, BrainCo, Inc., Neuros Medical, NextMind, Emotiv, NeuroLutions, Synchron, Flow Neuroscience, Bitbrain Technologies, NeuroScouting, Thync, InteraXon Inc., and BrainRobotics, to name a few.

“At every breakthrough in human machine interaction — from keyboard to mouse to multitouch to speech — the machine has gotten better at adapting to humans, allowing them to use native biological capacities to engage with the virtual world,” said Tom Gruber, Co-Founder of Siri Inc., the Virtual Personal Assistant that was later acquired by Apple in 2010. “The next breakthroughs will be in multimodal immersive interaction—using eyes, ears, and hands together, as in virtual reality—and adding the ultimate modality of direct interaction with the brain. Cognixion is at the forefront of these new modalities, with technology that allows people to speak and interact with computers using only their eyes and brains.”

There are numerous diseases and conditions that may cause speech disorders. These include brain injury, stroke, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder, dementia, ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) or Lou Gehrig’s disease, cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, Huntington’s disease, vocal cord damage, mouth or throat cancer, Parkinson’s disease, developmental delays, hearing loss and other medical or developmental disorders.

Cognixion’s healthcare bundle is designed to be an affordable augmentative and alternative communication (ACC) solution for hospitals, speech rehabilitation clinics, and special education. "Our solutions will soon be covered by both Medicare and Medicaid insurance reimbursement," said Forsland.

According to Forsland, Cognixion offers a turn-key speech generating device (SGD). The bundle includes Speakprose Pro+, iPad Pro, Apple Care warranty and technical support. Speakprose Pro+ enables users to navigate and control via facial recognition to detect facial muscle movements, and eye-tracking technology.

Forsland views AI machine learning as enabling technology. Cognixion uses artificial intelligence machine learning to enable the user to personalize their solution. The solution is highly scalable and reliable—the cloud-based backend is hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS), an industry-leading cloud services provider.

The proprietary algorithm was trained on electroencephalogram (EEG) data using supervised learning with an evolution regeneration methodology. From a neuroscience standpoint, Cognixion’s machine learning training includes data focused on the occipital lobes in conjunctions with visual evoked potential (VEP)—the light-evoked electrical signal that is recorded at the scalp over the occipital cortex. According to Forsland, each customer has their own instance of an AI algorithm that is customized to his or her specific needs. This flexibility is critical given the highly custom nature of calibration for individual bio-signal recognition.

“Machine learning is a game-changing tipping point for bio-signal recognition,” said Forsland. “It has totally surpassed in performance the prior state-of-the-art statistical techniques such as CCA and its other statistical cousins. We have created a whole signal, time frequency series data, machine learning classifier, and a bio-signal recognition process unlike anything that has come before.”

“At every juncture, as the machines get smarter at understanding humans, they not only make it easier to use technology, they augment people with new abilities and insights,” said Gruber. “An interface that watches your eyes and listens to your brain allows you to control a computer, and therefore allows you to express yourself, when you would be otherwise limited by physical impairment. This is a godsend for those who need it. But this new capability goes beyond accessibility. The same AI and neurotech that can make sense of these signals for control can also offer any human user an unprecedented opportunity to know thyself. Closing this loop of self-awareness is one of the great opportunities for technology to help us improve our physical and mental well-being.”

“We’re working hard to create products that engage non-speaking communities with the rest of the world by enabling simple tools that are cost-effective and accessible,” said Forsland. “We are using the power of AI and biometrics for the good of humanity.”

Copyright © 2019 Cami Rosso All rights reserved.