BCI / Brain-Computer Interface Race
About the Team
"For ten years now, I have been working with our pilot Francesco. During this time, we have become close friends and he is strongly involved in our development," says team manager Luca Tonin. His team from the Intelligent Autonomous System (IAS) laboratory at the University of Padova has been developing their BCI technology since 2014/15 and has been part of the CYBATHLON from the beginning.
"Francesco and I are similar when it comes to determination. We both set our goals high and are committed to achieving them. Our whole team is highly motivated to demonstrate our technology at the CYBATHLON. We believe in its great potential to be used in the future by people with disabilities in their everyday life, for example, we hope that it will be possible to operate a cell phone or a wheelchair using BCI", concludes Luca.
About the Pilot
Swimming is Francesco Bettella’s biggest passion. He began to swim at the age of three and has been competing internationally for more than 10 years – and with success: he won two silver medals at the Paralympic Games in Rio and has also qualified for the games in Tokyo. "It makes me happy to set goals for myself and to achieve them. I like to compete and exchange with others, but also the preparation and training," says Francesco, who was diagnosed with the genetic Charcot-Marie-Tooth-Syndrome when he was two years old. This disease causes certain nerves to degenerate, resulting in amyotrophia in the extremities.
At CYBATHLON, Francesco is facing a challenge completely different from his sport: “Swimming is simple, I can be emotional, let my feelings out and use the adrenaline to enhance my performance. The BCI race is about staying calm and constant, giving specific commands and relaxing your muscles." he explains. Just remember how it felt to write a difficult exam in school and you can imagine how hard it is to control your thoughts in a competitive situation! That is why Francesco is not only training on a replicated course but also doing relaxation exercises. The optimistic Italian is looking forward to the CYBATHLON: "I believe in the best and I will give my best!”
About the Device
The team uses a brain-computer interface based on electroencephalography (EEG). Their approach strongly relies on mutual learning in which both, the user and the decoder, have to learn from each other to achieve solid performance.