Ages: 30 (Dion); 32 (Eli)
Why they’re 2023 Top 40 Under 40s: They create opportunities for children with severe neurological disorders through brain-computer interface technologies.
Imagine you’re a child who can’t control your limbs. You can’t shoot water guns with your friends nor take part in your family’s tradition of pickling cucumbers. But, with a brain-computer interface (BCI) headset using a system called Think2Switch, you can.
Developed by Dion Kelly and Eli Kinney-Lang, Think2Swith translates signals from the headset to control everyday devices.
This is groundbreaking work in the challenging world of pediatric BCI. “Children are still underserved by BCI,” says Kinney-Lang. “The bigger BCI community still isn’t focusing as much on kids because … it’s really hard. Adults are really accepting of boring things, like long training sessions. But if we solve those problems for kids, that translates up to adults.”
Kelly and Kinney-Lang are now helping position Calgary as a global leader in the field. They are founding members of BCI-CAN, an international network of engineers, clinicians and trainees advancing pediatric BCI and help lead BCI4Kids one of the first, integrated, clinical, pediatric BCI programs in the world. They are co-founders of BCI Game Jam, an annual 48-hour competition that challenges developers to create a game experience from scratch that is 100-per cent playable with a BCI. Since 2019, more than 200 developers have built 40 BCI-enabled games.
Kelly and Kinney-Lang have raised and managed millions of dollars in funding for their research. In one year, their latest venture, Possibility Neurotechnologies, raised $275,000 from innovation and disability-research organizations around the world and moved swiftly from prototype to product, testing Think2Switch with 10 participating families and effectively launching the key for the future of BCI tech. “The best experience is working so closely with the kids and families,” says Kelly. “I love when one of the moms texts me a video of something new their kid is doing with the BCI that they never thought was possible.”
Dion Kelly: “My incredibly supportive friends and family; the BCI4Kids families; my dedicated colleagues, and my supervisor/co-founder/mentor, Dr. Adam Kirton.”
Eli Kinney-Lang: “My wife, Sara; my daughters, Cecilia and Juniper; my parents, Lisa and Rodney; my brother, Shelby and sister, Cambria; my co-nominee Dion; my colleagues and friends at Extra Life YYC and their president Todd Willsie; my supervisor and mentor Dr. Adam Kirton; the whole of the BCI4Kids team; our extended partners in the BCI-CAN Network; and especially the children and families I get to work with.”