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Compatibility between Brain-Computer Interface and High-Efficiency Augmentative and Alternative Communication Systems

Award Information
Agency: Department of Health and Human Services
Branch: National Institutes of Health
Contract: 2R42DC015142-02
Agency Tracking Number: R42DC015142
Amount: $1,188,398.00
Phase: Phase II
Program: STTR
Solicitation Topic Code: NIDCD
Solicitation Number: PA20-272
Solicitation Year: 2019
Award Year: 2019
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2019-09-01
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2022-04-30
Small Business Information
1022 HEYL RD
Wooster, OH 44691-9744
United States
DUNS: 080143399
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 (330) 262-1984
Business Contact
Phone: (330) 262-1984
Research Institution
4200 5TH AVE
PITTSBURGH, PA 15260-0001
United States

 Nonprofit College or University

Compatibility between Brain-Computer Interface and High Efficiency Augmentative and AlternativeCommunication Systems: Phase II
Brain-computer interfaces (BCI) enable text production for people who cannot move, but have only
simple communication interfaces and are not widely used. Augmentative and alternative
communication (AAC) systems are widely used and give efficient and precise communication, but
require movement, preventing use by people with severe impairments, such as advanced amyotrophic
lateral sclerosis or severe cerebral palsy.
Our Phase I STTR created and tested a software prototype of BCI access to the extensive language
application and communication system product line of the Prentke Romich Company (PRC). The
prototype was evaluated by PRC users, each using the BCI to access a software replica of their everyday
The overall objective of this Phase II application is to complete the hardware and software prototype of
the AAC-BCI along with training and resource materials. Our Phase I efforts showed compatibility of BCI
access to PRC software with gel electrode hardware. Users wanted shorter setup times, elimination of
gel, and increased interface responsiveness. Clinicians and internet survey participants echoed this
feedback and wanted easier setup and calibration, dry electrodes, and convenient training resources.
Our central hypothesis is that a commercial-grade implementation of BCI access to PRC language
applications using quick-setup dry electrodes with matching training and support resources will meet
laboratory-testing goals for effective communication and be ready for future clinical trials on its ability
to meet desired communication outcomes.
Through studies with participants familiar with PRC’s AAC software and technology, we plan to test our
central hypothesis and meet the objective of the application with the following specific aims:1. Optimize user interface design to guide BCI setup and calibration, and to refine interfaceresponsiveness and integration of BCI stimuli into existing device displays.2. Create a commercial grade software implementation that integrates BCI functionally into theexisting AAC system.3. Compare performance and user opinion of dry electrodes versus gel (wet) electrodes as theinput peripheral for the AAC-BCI system.4. Implement and evaluate training and resource materials for AAC-BCI set-up and calibrationwith input from practitioners, potential users and their support people.
This work will finalize a BCI input accessory for PRC’s line of AAC devices. The innovation of this work is
merging BCI access with the high-efficiency language production from PRC’s AAC user interface designs
that are matched to each personandapos; abilities, needs, and preferences. The significance of this work is the
extension of quality-of-life communication benefits to those with the most severe physical impairments,
providing an AAC-BCI through an established company with a clinical support network to provide
services across the lifespan.NARRATIVE
The proposed project is relevant to public health because it will create brain-computer interface (BCI)
access to an established line of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems providing a
voice to those who otherwise are isolated from their family members and society. The combined AAC-
BCI system will provide precise language production supported by a broad network of clinical support
personnel for those who cannot communicate through physical movements. This will fulfill the mission
of the NIH to reduce disability and enhance health by improving the quality-of-life for those with
extreme physical impairments by creating an AAC-BCI device designed for compatibility with established
communication, product delivery, and funding mechanisms.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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