Millions of people love video games that let them pretend to play guitar like John Mayer or Gary Clark Jr. So does Ian Burkhart — but he’s a quadriplegic, playing chords thanks to a breakthrough experiment that lets him use brain waves to move his fingers.
Burkhart, an Ohio State University student, was paralyzed in a diving accident. Undaunted, he’s devoted countless hours to helping scientists from the university’s Wexner Medical Center and the private Battelle Memorial Institute develop ways to help patients with spinal-cord injuries recover some movement. For now he can only move his hand in the lab with electrodes running from head to arm.
With a neural bypass, Burkhart can pour from a bottle, stir a drink and swipe a credit card. Even as new technologies expand the capabilities of people with disabilities, U.S. laws — including a civil rights law called the Americans with Disabilities Act — expand their opportunities, by ensuring access to education and employment.
Or, as Burkhart puts it, “I have a lot more hope for the future.”