Brain Computer Interface: Are We Ready for this yet?

Brain Computer Interface: Are We Ready for this yet?

Will Brain Computer Interface based technologies pave way to new opportunities?

Imagine if in future we can order food as soon as we think of it, or if a Netflix series gets downloaded after we mentally decide which one to binge watch during the weekend. Well brain computer interface (BCI) promises to make these things become reality someday soon.

Proving to be a powerful communication tool between users and systems brain computer interface, enables its users to interact directly any external devices through their brain activity. In layman terms, it is a system where electrical impulses, produced when neurons fire and communicate with each other, are processed and decoded into commands that are sent to an output device to carry out a desired action.

A brain computer interface is generally of two types. They are Invasive and Non Invasive. In Invasive BCI, electrodes or any other special devices are implanted into the human brain, or to specific sets of neurons via surgery. Whereas, Non-invasive BCI ones can be placed and removed easily. These tools use sensors applied on or near the head to track and record brain activity. Some common examples include EEG (electroencephalography), MEG (magnetoencephalography), and fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging).

People are prefer non-invasive BCI as they are safest and low-cost of the two. And with rise of non-invasive brain-computer interfaces, development of deep learning solutions to help improve BCIs accuracy, and drop in the cost of EEG headsets, a growing number of startups and large tech firms are looking for new ways to generate revenue from brain data. As companies are using this technology to develop new forms of communication and new business applications, there are few major tech giants that have already ventured into profiting from this.

For instance, in 2017 Facebook announced that it was working on a wearable device which would allow users to think up to 100 words per minute which would be then converted into text (the average human can type about 40 words per minute). In the same year, Neurable major headlines for inventing the world's first brain-controlled virtual reality (VR) game.  Players wore an EEG headset while they sat in front of a computer and were asked to drive a remote-controlled car around with their minds. Last year at CES 2020, a wearable brain-sensing device from NextMind was a huge hit among the audience. Being the first of its kind in the industry, this wearable is an EEG based device that can record the brain's electrical activity, and uses machine learning to translate EEG activity into commands. The primary objective of this NextMind wearable is to decode and understand information from the brain in real time.

Even techpreneur Elon Musk has publicly revealed many times about his Neuralink, to be developing sensors that connect to the brain and permit it to control linked devices. It has been claimed that the first real world application of Neuralink chip sensors will be to assist paraplegic people with using their smartphone or computer, though it could also be used to treat epilepsy, Parkinson's disease and even provide "rich visual feedback to the blind".

Apart from healthcare, applications of brain computer interface include controlling linked (IoT) devices such as smart door locks directly with your brain, without the need for a go-between such as a virtual assistant. In a research co-funded by the U.S. Army Research Office, conducted by Dr Stocco and his colleagues from the University of Washington, the team was able to send brain signals, via the Internet, and control the hand of another person.  In a more recent study, experts from France, Spain and Harvard University were able to transmit brain to brain signals, from India to France.

Even advertising industry can leverage brain computer interface to evaluate the impact of advertisements on users and the role of other cognitive functions that can be used for marketing strategy. In Cognitive Biometrics or electrophysiology, where only modalities using biosignals (such as brain signals) are used as sources of identity information, gives a solution for those vulnerabilities, brain computer interface offers positive news. Further, RAND Corporation researchers have developed a fleet of mind-controlled drones using BCI.

So, the future of brain computer Interface has huge potential for every industry vertical and is set to take the world by a new wave of disruption.

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