With the staggering growth in artificial intelligence technology, a lot of people are nervous about how it will affect life as we know now. The industrial revolution led to tremendous economical output. It killed so many manual labour based jobs but it created even more industrial jobs. However it is not very clear as to how an artificial intelligence revolution would pan out.
A lot of researchers are engaged in brain-computer interfaces to improve the cognitive capabilities of the human brain to stay relevant in the age of artificial intelligence and also to help people with neurodegenerative diseases. The Brain computer interface is also crucial for high reaching human goals like space travel etc, as it will enable you to create a copy of your consciousness, thus making it safer for space travel without the loss of self.
Elon musk has been making some advances in the field of neurotechnology with his new company neuralink that he co founded with eight other people, where he hopes to merge the biological brain with the digital brain.
Let’s take a deeper look at what these brain-computer interfaces are and how they came into being. According to Wikipedia,
A brain–computer interface (BCI), sometimes called a mind-machine interface (MMI), direct neural interface (DNI), or brain–machine interface (BMI), is a direct communication pathway between an enhanced or wired brain and an external device. BCIs are often directed at researching, mapping, assisting, augmenting, or repairing human cognitive or sensory-motor functions.
A Short History of BCI
It all began in 1924, when a German neuroscientist by the name of Hans Berger discovered neuroelectrical activity using the electroencephalography (EEG) process. The around the year1970, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) began exploring the potential of Brain-Computer interface applications of EEG tech. As we know most latest technology has been a result of government sponsored, defense oriented research, including the internet.
Around the year 1998, just two decades ago, the first brain implants produce high quality signals. Around 2005, scientists were successfully made a monkey to control a robotic arm using its brain and in the year 2014, we were able to transmit EEG signals over the internet achieving brain-to-brain communication.
Types of BCI
Brain computer interfaces are basically of three different types. One is the invasive version which involves signal transmitting devices implanted directly into the brain’s grey matter. This method provides the best quality signals, but the scar tissue formation after implantation can lead to the degeneration of signals.
There is a non invasive variant where simple wearables are used to register the EM transmissions of neurons. This doesn’t require any expensive invasive surgery and is easier to implement, but the signals suffers from poor resolution due to the interference caused by the skull. The non invasive variant is based on three different types of interfaces, which includes
- eye movement and pupil size oscillation
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Magnetoencephalography
There is a third variant, called the partially invasive version. In this the devices are implanted within the skull but not within the brain tissues. This results in the production of higher quality signals than the non invasive techniques by overcoming the skull’s interference and also has less risk due to scar tissue buildup.
The advancement in the technology has a lot of major applications, that is beneficial for the human race, which includes
- Mental control of prosthetic limbs
- Neurogaming applications which enable virtual interaction in virtual reality environment without physically handling any tools and limiting the need for clumsy interface.
- Synthetic Telepathy – where direct mental connection or communication pathways between two different brains can be established.
- Tele Robotics etc.
I hope this article gave you an introduction into the growing field of neurotechnology and specifically brain- computer interfaces