Interview with Alessandro Tozzo, LiquidWeb General Manager
December 30, 2021
Interview with Alessandro Tozzo, LiquidWeb General Manager, an innovative start – up that deals with the creation of technological devices for the improvement of people’s life quality suffering from serious diseases and disabilities
“Technology at the service of people” is the payoff that most represents BrainControl, the range of devices designed by LiquidWeb a (really) innovative start-up that puts people at the center of its technological solutions. After all, technology is, by its nature, a material that is born and evolves to simplify, optimize, and support people’s daily activities in every area. Even more so if we talk about people who are in adverse conditions because of serious pathologies or disabilities.
BrainControl was born with the idea of offering services and technological solutions to improve the quality of life of those who are in important physical and cognitive difficulties. Let’s see together the products offered.
BrainControl AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication)
BrainControl AAC is a range of medical devices designed to help people with serious medical conditions and mobility problems improve their lives, communicate with the outside world more easily, and regain self-confidence. The proposed solutions are 3
It is an EEG helmet that allows the patient to select through thought, the answers to questions posed and to pour them on a computer device (tablet, computer). This solution is designed for patients with large disabilities who, however, have sufficiently intact cognitive abilities.
These are sensors that allow patients with voluntary residual movements to interact with the outside world. In this case we are talking about eye pointers, motion sensors, mouse emulators that allow us to take advantage of the patient’s residual movements of any part of the body.
It is a device designed for people with mobility difficulties that allow you to remotely visit museums, exhibition spaces, installations and participate in events of any kind. This solution allows you to remotely “control” a real robotic alter ego by adjusting audio, video, and visual field height. External people will be able to interact with the alter ego thanks to the speakers provided by the monitor.
B in 2020, BrainControl won the European Union’s horizon call for research and Innovation, an important starting point for a young and dynamic brand that aims to rediscover the true values of technology at humanity’s service.
If you want to know more about BrainControl, read the interview with Alessandro Tozzo, General Manager of the company
Hello Alessandro, nice to meet you and thank you for the time you are dedicating. Tell us more about this wonderful project
The BrainControl project stems from our belief that technology first of all must bring an improvement in people’s lives, a thought – this – that guides all our activities, in particular that of research. Our solutions consider the needs of people with disabilities and try to fill the gap due to them: after all, this should be the main role of technology and artificial intelligence. We wanted to find a solution that would allow people in a Locked – in state to be able to communicate again with the outside world. As a result of neurodegenerative diseases or strokes or even traumatic events, some people, while maintaining a good cognitive level, completely lose the use of ordinary channels of communication (voice, gestures, even the gaze). In practice they remain “caged ” in their body without being able to interact with the outside world. Imagine being completely still, hearing what’s going on around you and maybe even seeing it, but you can’t talk. Answers to questions that are asked to you by loved ones or doctors form in your mind, but do not come out of there. How would you feel? The term “frustrated” comes to mind and probably sad too. Then finally you can communicate, in a simple way, even with yes or no, or with short answers, but you are again in contact with the world, basically a return to life.
How and when was the BrainControl idea born?
The idea was born a decade ago and starts from the assumption that I just told and from the desire to find a solution by exploiting technology, the BCI, Brain Computer Interface to allow people in Locked-in status to be able to communicate. Our SOFTWARE, BrainControl BCI, has been developed to be able to intercept the user’s thought and transform it into a command that is sent to a tablet to select the desired response. The first solution was then added the sensor versione version, which allows communication through mouse emulators and the Braincontrol Avatar, which allows people with motor disabilities to visit museums or exhibitions, piloting a robot and living a totally immersive experience
How long did it take to shape the devices?
It took 5 years before we had an acceptable and stable prototype that would allow people with severe disabilities to communicate. This was the version that then led to the certification of the product as a Medical Device. The fundamental point of the process was to understand the real conditions of the patients. When you have the ambition to create an advanced tool for augmentative communication, you need to have benchmarks to understand whether the patient answers the questions exactly or there are false positives or negatives. This type of validation is still ongoing; we are in fact creating a clinical protocol that can scientifically prove the level of accuracy and increase the value of our product.
There were of course also economic/financial difficulties that affected the development: a small company, even if it has a good idea, always needs funders to be able to work on the idea, develop prototypes, do studies and bring it to market.
Who can request a BrainControl device?
BrainControl devices can be requested both directly by the patient’s family, on a private level, and by the specialist doctor who treats the patient, therefore with a prescription request directly to the competent ASL. To date we have several contracts with public bodies in different regions such as Lombardy, Tuscany, Marche, Campania, Puglia. Normally, to reduce waiting times, the family initially rents the kit and then makes a prescription request to the Asl.
Which device are you most “bond” with and why?
The BCI is the solution to which we are most attached because it is the first and because it is the only one that allows some people to be able to communicate again and this fills us with pride and satisfaction. But I must admit that we are also very fond of BrainControl Avatar: giving the opportunity to people with serious or very serious disabilities to overcome the barriers caused by this disability and to be able to visit exhibitions or participate in events that would otherwise be precluded is really a good feeling.
How did you launch your brand?
Last year, also following the Lockdown, we wanted to stop and reflect a little on who we really are, what our motivations are and where we want to go, and we wanted to completely review our image to be able to better communicate all this outside. We can therefore say that we relaunched our brand at the beginning of 2021, with a new look and a new language, more accessible, more concrete. The launch took place through a press release, reinforced by our renewed presence on social media and the new site.
How about the future?
There are so many projects. From the research point of view, we are working on solutions that can facilitate diagnosis for people in LockedIn, thanks also to the collaboration with two universities. There are also projects to make the experience with our Avatar even more immersive. From the commercial point of view, however, the goal is to overcome the Italian borders and be available to other European and European countries.