When new technology is talked about, clichés like “the possibilities are endless” or “the future is now” are tossed around until the hype dies down. Sometimes there is worth to the cliché and even skeptics will not roll their eyes when the possibilities of Brain Computer-Interfaces (BCI) are mentioned. While the possibilities are not endless, there are enough of them to excite Facebook and Elon Musk.
What exactly are BCIs?
A BCI can be defined as any form of computer technology designed to interact with neural structures of the brain. By interacting with our brain structures it is hoped that improvements in the software will be translated into discernible actions. In 1977, academics showed that a cursor could be moved on a screen, based on EEG waves, this than we as a species have gotten far better at creating technologies to enhance the actions of BCIs.
Electroencephalography (EEG) and its Importance
The pursuit of BCI technology has led to the development of non-invasive BCI technology. That is namely the use of external sensors to pick up electroencephalography (EEG) waves. These sensors are able to pick on the electrical activity of the brain, without the need to place an intrusive bit of hardware in the brain, which requires surgery.
The sensors often in the form of electrodes were initially used to determine abnormalities with brain functioning in patients. Now, they can be used as input data for hardware and software to translate into discernible action. EEG technology has become a vital pillar for the development of better BCI technology.
How far has the technology moved?
Since the first time someone moved a cursor on a computer screen solely by using EEG waves, futurists soon envisioned that machines could be controlled solely by the power of the mind. It seems we have surpassed this point and are looking to incorporate BCI technology with the Internet of Things (IoT). This invariably involves the development of apps. Now software developers are asking which framework to use, flutter vs react native when creating cross-platform apps to pair with hardware.
The app functions via a general-purpose binary classifier which takes data directly from the Muse headset. This data is then streamed in real-time along with the LibMuse Java API library to provide users with information explaining how the hardware works. EEG-101 is a great use case for the BCI technology currently available and how it can be incorporated into mass use. It takes electrodes, sensors, and large pieces of technology out of labs and hospitals and places into the public domain.
It is clear that BCI technology has moved away from purely medical technology into the realm of definitive user-based technology. One project, in particular, Brainternet, aims to convert the brain of the user to a node of the Internet. This will fundamentally connect the brain to the Internet and will allow signals from the brain to be directly uploaded to the Internet. This is a great, if morally perplexing, step for the technology but will potentially allow physicians and doctors better insight into the mystery that is still the grey matter between our ears.