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Mindspeaker's CEO Arno Libert on company progress

February 21, 2024

Healthcare innovations are in continuous development, creating and evolving technologies that will shape healthcare and aid patients around the world overcome the struggles of the different medical conditions, is the golden standard of the industry.

But learning all about it seems like a never ending Google search, as every day, progress is being done. In the light of these, we aim to make the journey smooth. We conducted an interview with MindSpeaker’s CEO Arno Libert to help us answer strategic questions.

How are healthcare technologies, such as the one used by Mindspeaker, revolutionizing the industry?

Well, modern society is facing an imminent crisis with the aging population. In the future there will be more and more people requiring daily care and this will result in an increase in manpower which will drive up the cost of healthcare. I think the industry is quite rightly banking on the advancements in technology to catch this future requirement.

As more aspects of modern care become integrated with technology, an efficient way to communicate with said environment will most likely be voice activation. Think of systems such as chromecast or siri. Patients who will not be capable of communication through voice will need solutions which we at Mindspeaker aim to provide, in addition to communication with their loved ones and medical staff. The aim of such systems is to increase self reliance for patient dignity and a lower care of cost.

In the case of ALS, there are 14000 people diagnosed per year, 60% of these patients will require speech therapy and 40% will require 24h care. However, eventually 95% of these patients will lose the ability to speak.

Technologies such as Brain-computer interfaces (BCI) allow for a direct communication pathway between the brain’s electrical activity and an external device, such as a computer. They are aimed to assist, augment or repair human cognitive or sensory-motor functions. They are revolutionizing the industry as they lead to a high performance solution for patients with motor speech disorders caused by stroke, traumatic brain injury, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis or parkinson's disease.

What is the goal of MindSpeaker?

In the short term, mindspeaker intends to revolutionize Alternative Augmentative Communication (AAC) devices by offering a single communication and software solution which can be used and adapted throughout the progression of the disorders causing dysarthria. The users will gain experience with the communication systems and at the same time, we can record the brain data which is required for our future BCI algorithms. The method of control of our software can then be changed in accordance with the progression of the disease. In essence, the software will never change, but the way you control it will.

In the long term, Mindspeaker’s goal is to restore natural communication for paralyzed patients who have lost their ability to speak through the patented BCI algorithm that has the capability to decode speech directly from patients' brain waves. By using a wearable EEG headset, and simply imagining words or movements, Minspeaker’s BCI aims to vocalize a complete sentence with the patient's authentic voice. Once enough brain data is available, we aim to offer a population trained solution which allows communication for new patients of sudden onset afflictions such as Locked-In-Syndrome as a result of stroke.

How does the technology work? So I can explain it to a 6-year-old...

To put it very simply, imagine the brain as a computer and the body as a robot arm which is controlled by the computer.

If everything works correctly, the computer will send electrical signals to the robot arm which tell the robot arm what to do, how to do and when to do an action. The robot arm will translate these electrical signals into movement.

In this context, we would measure the electrical signals coming from the computer, and trying to predict what the movement of the robot arm would be based on these electrical signals.

To translate this anecdote into a BCI, the computer would be the brain, and the robot arm would be the human body. The brain is a very complex computer which performs different tasks at the same time, so separating the relevant electrical signals from the movement is a bit more tricky. This is where typically artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms come into play which requires examples of the signal and the action so the algorithm can learn what to look for in the brain data.

An example would be if a person were to speak the word yes, and repeat this multiple times, the algorithm would learn what the brain signal for the word yes is and be able to detect this in a continuous stream of brain waves.

Is it like… reading minds?

The solution will not be like reading minds, the intent to speak needs to be present for the algorithm to start looking for words. Your inner thought will be kept safe, just like there is a filter before you speak your mind, there is a filter here that waits for your intent to speak.

BCI technologies have been in the market for a while, what makes it now the moment to venture?

There are 4 aspects which makes this an ideal moment to go to market with BCI solutions.

The first is the increasing push from commercial EEG suppliers with different technologies which have reached sufficient data quality and useability to allow for commercial applications.

The second has been the increase in AI systems such as large language models and deep learning techniques in recent years which allow for such complicated systems to be accurately mapped.

The third is an increase in ‘hype’ when it comes to these brain technologies, think of the amount of times Elon Musks Neuralink appears in the news in recent time and there is still a large demand for bespoke AAC solutions from patients.

Lastly, Mindspeaker has obtained a patent which allows for the approximation of invasive signals from non-invasive signals, giving us the capability to approach this crucial component for decoding speech.

What does the future look like with these technologies on the market?

In recent years we have already seen a push to market for BCI when it comes to concentration management and focus measuring using commercial headsets.  With the advancement in supply and availability of decent dry-electrode EEG systems, these applications will only grow. I also see the Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality markets to drive the use of BCI forwards as these headset systems go hand in hand.

What makes MindSpeaker different from any other medtech company?

MindSpeaker accompanies the patient throughout the development of the disease. It offers a solution from early stage onset of symptoms, to allow patients to gradually adapt. While the AI algorithm learns the patient’s authentic communication profile, preparing for full restoration of the patient’s authentic, natural speech as the disease progresses. It is a non-invasive solution that offers decoding both imagined speech and movement to restore the original tone of voice.

When will MindSpeaker be available for patients?

We want to make our solution available for market in january 2024, our software will be available sooner as this will need to be iterated by users so we can provide an optimal solution for them. We also aim to apply for a medical device type 1 in 2024 which may take up tot 2025 to be granted but until then, we can already offer our solutions as a non-medical device. The first prototypes for speech decoding are aimed to be ready around this time.