What is a Brain Computer Interface?

Probably you’ve heard about brain-computer interfaces, neural interfaces or brain-machine interfaces and as most people you may wonder what these topics are about.

A Brain-Computer-Interface or BCI provides an alternative method for acting on the world. Brain waves can be measured recording the electrical activity along the scalp, what is known as EEG. Nowadays analyzing the EEG it is possible to determine whether someone is thinking about moving his right or left hand and many reactions to external events. This information can be transferred to a machine, translated into commands and … that’s it!, we already have a direct communication pathway between the brain and the world!

It is a communication pathway in which no muscles, not even vocal chords, are involved. Just your brain, your thoughts and any device you can think about, a robot, your avatar, your computer or even your vacuum cleaner.

Brain-interface technology is opening the world for those who have been shut out of it in the past. Disabled people who today are confined to a bed or a wheelchair may one day be able to live autonomously by directly controlling their environment. Engineers have already created prosthetic arms and hands for amputees that can perform fine motor tasks and wheelchairs that can be BCI controlled.

But not only people with motor difficulties can benefit from this technology. If Nintendo Wii was a revolution in the way of playing video games imagine a game where players only need to think about what they want their game avatar to do. Aware of the BCI possibilities many video game companies have started investing in this technology in recent years.

If one day consumer electronic companies adapt their classical interfaces to work along with BCI, it will profoundly change the way we live our lives completely changing the way we interact with our environment. The possibilities are huge.

The technology itself is already here. Many reliable, portable, wireless brain measuring devices are already in the market and can be acquired for a reasonable price, and above all, every day we know more and more about how the brain works.

In the future I personally imagine myself changing the TV channel just thinking about doing it. The height of laziness…

photo credit: Saad Faruque via photo pin cc

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