How artificial intelligence helped me walk again

How artificial intelligence helped me walk again

Twelve years ago, Gert-Jan Oskam had a bicycle accident while working in Beijing. Even to this day, the 40-year-old does not remember the accident he suffered.

Two weeks later he returned to the Netherlands, his country of birth, and was told that his spinal cord had been severely damaged and that he would have to live in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

"I wanted to walk, but the doctors told me I had no chance," he told The Times.

But today he not only stands up, but can also walk on difficult terrain and even climb stairs thanks to the placement of two electronic implants that connect the brain to the spinal cord.

Gert-Jan placed them in an operation performed by Professor Jocelyne Bloch of the University of Lausanne in July 2021.

The two implants build what the researchers call a "digital bridge," restoring the connection lost during his accident.

Sensors on his head wirelessly transmit brain signals and movement intentions from the implant to a portable computer that can be carried in a small backpack.

It uses algorithms based on artificial intelligence methods to decipher those brain signals in real time.

The data is then transmitted to the spinal cord implant in the form of electrical signals that in turn instruct the leg muscles to move as desired.