Cognixion: Giving AI-Superpowers to Humans with Disabilities

Andreas Forsland, Founder & CEO
Although smart and intellectual, world-renowned scientist, Stephen Hawking, would not have contributed to cosmology and theoretical physics without the necessary assistive technology support to communicate with the external world. Leveraging state-of-the-art, but expensive technology, Hawking could unsheathe new dimensions in the field of science just by blinking an eye and twitching a cheek.

Now, what many don’t realize is that there are almost half a billion people worldwide with speech disabilities and over a billion with accessibility barriers if you include hearing and vision loss. There are likely hundreds or even thousands of people out there just like Stephen Hawking, awaiting the right technology at the right price to unlock their own creativity, curiosity, self-expression, and inclusion.

Try imagining a world where every differently abled person could seamlessly communicate without being hampered by their disabilities. But, is it possible to contrive advanced technologies of this kind at scale? “The vivid applications of latest technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and augmented reality (AR) can make it possible,” answers Andreas Forsland, founder and CEO of Cognixion. With a desire to democratize communication, Forsland laid the foundation of Cognixion, an AI-based company. Cognixion brings together the power of AI, ML, and AR to devise affordable products that enrich human communication. “Through our inventive technology, we allow differentially abled people to use their brain waves to control objects around them in the real and digital world. It is like a virtual mouse reading brain signals and taking decisions accordingly.”

“We can understand what people wish to convey by using ML to detect what objects they’re paying attention to in our AR display via certain patterns in their brainwaves through electroencephalogram (EEG). We are designing a brain-computer interface (BCI) which basically combines a wearable AR headset display with our wireless BCI,” adds Forsland. The brain signals are extracted with the help of advanced dry electrodes, which are a part of the wireless BCI and are positioned comfortably on the scalp of the user. Our BCI is designed to work complete offline meaning no dependency on cloud computing. This requires a very sophisticated and creative approach to using ML/AI onboard our wireless BCI, instead of traditional statistical methods. Cognixion incorporates ML for numerous aspects of the pipeline including optimizing electrode positioning to for ideal signal quality and improve signal to noise filtering and feature extraction. The BCI monitors the user’s eyes, analyzing the attributes of objects within the user’s visual cortex and communicates the same to the software that runs on the display—essentially creating closed loop system. The software disambiguates different objects based on their respective frequencies. Termed as ‘visually-evoked potentials (VEP),’this technique is leveraged to send commands to objects that the user is looking at. The most striking factor about Cognixion’s venture is that while traditional systems may take several seconds to identify objects using VEPs, the company’s ML-enabled system can do the same the at the fastest speed that the laws of human biological optics and neurological limits allow, with nearly 100 percent accuracy.

“We are on course to reduce this timeframe even further, because the faster we can get accurate detections, the more natural – or even supernatural – the system will feel as a bionic extension of their mind and body.”
While Cognixion is building their AI-powered BCI, they’ve been testing their technology in more mainstream accessible apps like their latest speech generating mobile app, Speakprose, available for free in the Apple App Store. The app is empowering thousands of individuals with disabilities – as well as their clinical partners in speech and behavioral therapy to accelerate social engagement with 10x faster communication. Typical users of Speakprose include children, teens and adults with autism, Down syndrome, strokes, cerebral palsy, Parkinsons and early stage ALS. In an instance, a multilingual Canadian professor of Old English Literature known for having fluently spoken 9 languages, Professor Lorenzo Minelli had a double brain stem stroke rendering him voiceless and tetraplegic. With the help of therapists, he regained his ability to compose his thoughts using an iPad. Recently, using Cognixion’s AI-powered AR solution, the professor was able to deliver a live lecture lasting 45 minutes to a large audience responding to impromptu questions using only head movement, no eye tracking required.

Cognixion is using AI and ML to make it possible for people to use a direct, noninvasive brain computer interface (BCI) for navigating, selecting and controlling objects in virtual and real life. Whether that be controlling a communication app, a prosthetic or a smart home

“I am very impressed with the magic of how Cognixion has designed this solution – it is so much easier and natural for me. I can’t wait to see where this can go as it continues to improve,” said Prof. Minelli. Cognixion goes beyond catering to the speech impaired. To help those disabled people without limbs, the company’s technology can also be used to analyze their brain signals and transmit commands to prosthetic limbs as well as connected smart devices like IoT and smart homes including Amazon Alexa. This makes it possible for the disabled to feel that the prosthetic limbs are not just artificial add-ons but enhanced capabilities of their own bodies.

With well-known organizations such as New York City Department of Education and Canada's largest children's rehabilitation hospital as its clients, Cognixion has emerged as a frontrunner in the healthcare innovation marketplace. Having several partnerships throughout the U.S. and Canada the company aims at building a market leadership position in North America and take its products to the global population.


Santa Barbara, CA

Andreas Forsland, Founder & CEO

Develops AI-based software that people with disabilities can use to express themselves faster and communicate better