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Utilising machine learning to enable communication for LIS patients

An engineering student from the University of Santo Tomas (UST), in the Philippines, won the coveted Project of the Year award at the 30th BPI-DOST Science Awards held recently.

According to a recent press release, the student was feted with the sole Project of the Year Award and one of the two Best in Innovation Awards.

With the theme, “Moving the Nation towards Sustainable Development through Science and Innovation,” the awards recognized 30 students for generating scientific research projects and innovations in applied science, health and allied science, physical science, and other related fields.

Background of the project

The project aimed to enable communication with locked-in syndrome patients to increase their quality of life.

Locked-in Syndrome is a form of severe paralysis that results in total loss of motor ability including speech.

It is usually obtained due to traumatic brain injury, neural damage, or most commonly, stroke.

The brief project video explained that stroke is the second leading cause of death in the Philippines, with 15 million adults affected worldwide, and 5 million permanently disabled.

At present, there is no specific medical treatment for it and those affected with the syndrome are limited to blinks and vertical eye movement for basic communication.

The Project

The research proposed a solution, which the researcher called, “typing by thinking.” This means that patients could think of a command and express words displayed on screen.

The project entry is called “Electroencephalogram (EEG)-based Brain Computer Typing Interface Using Imagined Characters for Locked-In Syndrome Patients”.

It involves a brain-computer typing interface using visual imagination of basic shapes and letters. Brain signals were recorded and machine learning was used to classify the aforementioned signals.

Improving UST’s use of ICT

In other news, the University’s newly established Office of Information and Communications Technology held a three-day strategic planning session to craft a unified plan for the University in terms of using ICT.

The session aimed to bring the 3 most digital technology-immersed departments together for a unified strategic planning for the University.

These departments are the Santo Tomas e-Service Providers (STePS), the Educational Technology (EdTech) Centre, and the Institute of Information and Computing Sciences (IICS).

Areas of focus

Among the areas of concern were the interfaces among the three units as well as the need to craft a 5-year strategic plan, backed by a mechanism to accomplish the targets.

In addition, the gathering aimed to draft appropriate policies for the ICT services of the University.

Among the salient points discussed were the competencies of each of the three units and how these can be harmonised toward the same goals.

The STePs provides the robust, reliable, scalable, hardware and network infrastructure. The EdTech Centre, meanwhile, runs the innovations for connected learning on multi-platforms.

The IICS, which is the academic department, is responsible for the creation of technological innovations.

It is also in-charge of training Thomasian IT professionals who are prepared for the fast-changing landscape of information technology.

Becoming an online university

Part of the goals is for the University to be an online university. This move will allow the University to do the following:

  1. Develop and deliver fully online courses
  2. Offer unique courses that are not available to existing program offerings
  3. Model and showcase 21st century teaching and learning practices that embrace student-centric approaches in physical and virtual learning spaces
  4. Develop an exemplary league of online instructors in course design, development, and delivery
  5. Produce digital content for a wider set of audiences

For the academic units, the IICS aims to provide latest technologies to the University.

It will partner closely with the EdTech Center to offer dynamic programs and courses for students, alumni, professionals, and all other stakeholder.

Furthermore, it will strengthen its software development consultancy in close coordination with STePS, in the service of all Thomasian business process owners, by introducing innovative systems and applications for various units in the University.

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