We’ve all had that moment. After stuffing yourself full of chips, you collapse on the couch. Wearily, you look at the remote control, barely 2 feet away from you. You thrust your hand in the direction of the remote, willing it to come towards you. If only, you think, telepathy was real.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, the day has arrived.
Brain-computer interfaces, otherwise known as BCI’s, are here and they’re changing what we think is within the realm of the possible. The applications are endless but before we get into that, let’s go over the basics.
What is a BCI?
Simply put, a BCI is a device that will record and analyze brain activity and use it to activate an external device.
The device that is used to record and analyze the brain activity is usually an electroencephalogram or EEG for short.
How do EEG’s work?
EEG’s are a technique used to measure electrical activity of the brain.
You see, the brain contains an average of 120 billion neurons. These neurons are responsible for everything from receiving sensory input to sending messages for our muscles to move. They do this by communicating amongst each other using chemical and electrical signals.
These electrical signals can tell us a lot about your brain and how it’s working. So, scientists created EEG’s that allow us to quantitatively measure these signals and gain data about what’s going on inside the cabbage looking organ that controls our lives (a.k.a. the brain).
EEG’s are made up of small electrodes. These are small disks with thin wires that are placed on your scalp. By measuring the electrical charges that are a result of your neurons firing, the EEG produces a graph that shows the frequency and shape of your brain waves in the areas that are close to the electrodes.
Current applications of EEG’s have been to diagnose neurological disorders such as epilepsy and other seizure disorders by checking for abnormalities in the brain waves of a patient.
However, scientists have found a way to put these findings into motion … literally.
How To Use EEG Findings
You see, once we can record and analyze the signals in your brain, we can use them to trigger certain reactions in an external device.
For example, let’s say there are two blinking lights. These lights are blinking at different frequencies and therefore produce different results in the EEG graph depending on which one you’re looking at.
By having both lights represent different actions, the person’s brainwaves decide the outcome of something. Whether this is used to communicate information such as one light meaning “yes” and one light meaning “no” or if the EEG readings that result from looking at one light cause a robotic arm to move depends entirely on the objective of the BCI.
There are other ways for BCI’s to collect information. You could have the person clench their jaw or blink, actions that result in easily identifiable readings on an EEG graph. All one has to do is assign one event to the type of reading and there you go: telepathy!
As you can see, the concept of BCI’s is applicable to practically every industry.
Want to have immediate release of a medication as soon as the brainwaves pick up abnormalities in the case of patients who have neurological disorders such as epilepsy?
How about remotely controlling a computer screen without the need of a keypad or mouse?
Better yet, why not give paraplegic people the chance to walk again by allowing their brainwaves to control their artificial limbs?
The answers lie in brain-computer interfaces.
BCI’s allow humans to interact with the world in a way we never thought possible. Whether it’s creating a more equitable world for people with physical disabilities or changing the entertainment industry with the ability to control screens with your minds, BCI’s are the future.
If you liked this found this article helpful in learning about the basics of BCI’s, be sure to give it a clap, follow me my medium account; Aizah Malik, and share it to anyone who would to learn more about this fascinating technology!