This week, the academic community provided a rather impressive example of the promise of neural implants. Using an implant, a paralysed individual managed to type out roughly 90 characters per minute simply by imagining that he was writing those characters out by hand.
Previous attempts at providing typing capabilities to paralysed people via implants have involved giving subjects a virtual keyboard and letting them manoeuvre a cursor with their mind. The process is effective but slow, and it requires the user's full attention, as the subject has to track the progress of the cursor and determine when to perform the equivalent of a key press. It also requires the user to spend the time to learn how to control the system.
As the researchers themselves put it, this "is not yet a complete, clinically viable system." To begin with, it has only been used in a single individual, so we have no idea how well it might work for others.
A paralyzed individual hit 90 characters per minute, 99% accuracy.