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Brain-Computer Interface (BCI):devices that enable its users to interact with computers by mean of brain-activity only, this activity being generally measured by ElectroEncephaloGraphy (EEG).
Electroencephalography (EEG):physiological method of choice to record the electrical activity generated by the brain via electrodes placed on the scalp surface.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI): measures brain activity by detecting changes associated with blood flow.
Functional Near-Infrared Spectroscopy (fNIRS): the use of near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) for the purpose of functional neuroimaging. Using fNIRS, brain activity is measured through hemodynamic responses associated with neuron behaviour.
Convolutional Neural Network (CNN):a type of artificial neural network used in image recognition and processing that is specifically designed to process pixel data.
Visual Cortex: part of the cerebral cortex that receives and processes sensory nerve impulses from the eyes
Sarah Marsch, Guardian news reporter, said “ Brain-computer interfaces (BCI) aren’t a new idea. Various forms of BCI are already available, from ones that sit on top of your head and measure brain signals to devices that are implanted into your brain tissue.” (source)
Most BCIs were initially developed for medical applications. According to Zaza Zuilhof, Lead Designer at Tellart, “Some 220,000 hearing impaired already benefit from cochlear implants, which translate audio signals into electrical pulses sent directly to their brains.” (source)
The article called “The Brief History of Brain Computer Interfaces” gives us many information related to the history of BCI. Indeed, the article says “In the 1970s, research on BCIs started at the University of California, which led to the emergence of the expression brain–computer interface. The focus of BCI research and development continues to be primarily on neuroprosthetics applications that can help restore damaged sight, hearing, and movement. The mid-1990s marked the appearance of the first neuroprosthetic devices for humans. BCI doesn’t read the mind accurately, but detects the smallest of changes in the energy radiated by the brain when you think in a certain way. A BCI recognizes specific energy/ frequency patterns in the brain.
June 2004 marked a significant development in the field when Matthew Nagle became the first human to be implanted with a BCI, Cyberkinetics’s BrainGate™.
In December 2004, Jonathan Wolpaw and researchers at New York State Department of Health’s Wadsworth Center came up with a research report that demonstrated the ability to control a computer using a BCI. In the study, patients were asked to wear a cap that contained electrodes to capture EEG signals from the motor cortex — part of the cerebrum governing movement.
BCI has had a long history centered on control applications: cursors, paralyzed body parts, robotic arms, phone dialing, etc.
Recently Elon Musk entered the industry, announcing a $27 million investment in Neuralink, a venture with the mission to develop a BCI that improves human communication in light of AI. And Regina Dugan presented Facebook’s plans for a game changing BCI technology that would allow for more efficient digital communication.”
According to John Thomas, Tomasz Maszczyk, Nishant Sinha, Tilmann Kluge, and Justin Dauwels “A BCI system has four major components: signal acquisition, signal preprocessing, feature extraction, and classification.” (source)
Why does it matter?
According to Davide Valeriani, Post-doctoral Researcher in Brain-Computer Interfaces at the University of Essex, “The combination of humans and technology could be more powerful than artificial intelligence. For example, when we make decisions based on a combination of perception and reasoning, neurotechnologies could be used to improve our perception. This could help us in situations such when seeing a very blurry image from a security camera and having to decide whether to intervene or not.” (source)
What are these brain-computer interfaces actually capable of?
For Zaza Zuilhof, It depends who you ask and whether or not you are willing to undergo surgery. “For the purpose of this thought-experiment, let’s assume that healthy people will only use non-invasive BCIs, which don’t require surgery. In that case, there are currently two main technologies, fMRI and EEG. The first requires a massive machine, but the second, with consumer headsets like Emotiv and Neurosky, has actually become available to a more general audience.” (source)
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