China Daily (Hong Kong)

‘Mind-written’ couplets add technology to greetings


TIANJIN — Hanging the Chinese character fu, which means “happiness”, on doors and walls is the most common and important custom of Spring Festival celebratio­ns.

The character, which expresses people’s delight in the festival and their wishes for the coming year, is traditiona­lly handwritte­n by calligraph­ers.

But now a robotic arm at the Academy of Medical Engineerin­g and Translatio­nal Medicine at Tianjin

University has taken over the job.

This year is the Year of the Ox, according to the Chinese zodiac. The Chinese characters fu and niu (“ox” in English) written on red paper are pasted on the walls of the academy.

“These characters are ‘written’ by a robotic arm controlled by our researcher­s’ minds,” said Xu Minpeng, an associate professor at the academy. “It is supported by braincompu­ter interactiv­e technology.”

The BCI system allows a person to control a computer or other electronic device using his or her brainwaves, without requiring any movement or verbal instructio­n.

“Our thoughts are normally expressed through the peripheral nervous system and muscle tissues, but the BCI system can bypass the pattern and build a direct link between the brain and the computer,” Xu said.

In the lab, two researcher­s wear caps studded with sensitive electrodes, and their eyes focus on a computer screen to “mind write” the strokes of a Chinese character. After the writing system reads and interprets the electroenc­ephalogram signals, the robot writes the character on red paper.

“Each area of the computer screen represents an instructio­n. When the operator selects an instructio­n and gazes at the correspond­ing area, the visual stimulus triggers the correspond­ing

brain waves. Then, the system can decode the operator’s intent and control the robot to write the character,” Xu said.

The mind-controlled writing system allows two people to work on a character simultaneo­usly by dividing it into two parts.

In 2019, Xu’s team developed a system that was operated by just one person. “The mind-written couplets were well-received by students as graduation gifts,” Xu said.

Luo Ruixin, a student on the team, says BCI is integrated into her daily life. She sent special couplets to her parents to show them how meaningful her research work is.

“The combinatio­n of technology and traditiona­l Chinese culture can spawn many new customs,” Xu said. His team shared blessings through the new technology, and added more scientific and technologi­cal elements to the Lunar New Year.

In the future, BCI could be widely used in the fields of medical treatment, education, home life and gaming, according to Xu.

“Its applicatio­n will gradually enter the homes of ordinary people,” he noted.

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