Brain-Machine Interfaces (BMIs)

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Brain-Machine Interfaces (BMIs)

Brain-Machine interfaces encapsulate technologies that serve as interfaces between the internal workings of the brain and the external world

University of California-Los Angeles computer scientist Jacques J. Vidal first talked about “brain machine interfaces” in the 1970s.

Since then, the term has grown to encapsulate technologies that serve as interfaces between the internal workings of the brain and the external world.

Researchers are finding new ways to connect humans and mammals directly to computers. Last year, Elon Musk’s Neuralink unveiled a robot capable of implanting tiny, ultrathin threads deep into the brain. It’s a step toward Musk’s vision of advanced brain-machine interfaces—small, wearable computers with these thread-like components embedded directly into our brain tissue.

The Pentagon has been working on similar projects that use both threads and pulsating lights.

Much of the research to date has focused on rehabilitation: With these human-machine interfaces, people can communicate via thought alone, which promises new options for those suffering from stroke and paralysis.

Startups Neurable and Trimble are collaborating on brain-computer interface projects in transportation, architecture, and engineering.

Paris-based NextMind secured $4.6 million in funding to bring noninvasive brain command technology to the gaming industry. Facebook has been working on several BMI projects, including a noninvasive headband that would read thoughts before we say them aloud.

In one partnership with the University of California-San Francisco, researchers place sheets of electrodes on the brains of volunteer test subjects to see how much of their thoughts can be read. Facebook, which also owns Oculus VR, is working toward a headset that might someday allow us to control music or virtual reality environments simply by thinking.