What Does BCI (Brain-Computer Interface) Mean?
BCI Interface Design
BCI, or Brain-Computer Interface, is a technology that enables sending and receiving signals between the brain and various other external devices. The Brain-Computer interface is also known as the Brain-Machine interface. BCI collects and interprets the signals received from the brain and then transmits them to a connected machine to display the desired outcome associated with the respective signal.
In layman's terms, BCI is a means of interaction between the brain and an externally connected device. The BCI communication channel is bi-directional, or a two-way link wherein the BCI signal can be transmitted to the connected machine via the human brain, or the other way round, wherein the machine can transmit command/information to the brain of the BCI user. The latter is known as an active BCI, where there is a direct brain connection, while the former is known as passive BCI, which is non-intrusive.
How Does BCI Work?
Our brains are filled with cells called neurons, which are at work every time we act, even as simple as thinking arbitrarily. The work performed by neurons is carried out by a combination of biochemical and electrical signals. Thanks to advancing technology, scientists can now detect and interpret these signals using electroencephalography, or EEG. EEG can read signals from the human brain, and further send them to the amplifiers. The amplified signals are then detected by a BCI computer program, which further enhances the signal to control the device.
A BCI can be referred to as a brain-machine interface, a neural-control interface, a mind-machine interface, or a direct neural interface. A BCI facilitates direct communication between the brain and an external device, often to control the activity of the device. BCIs read signals from the brain and use machine learning algorithms to translate the signals into external actions.
BCI and EEG
EEG based BCI are characterized by the method of using non-invasive EEG electrodes that gauge brain activity and translate it into commands.
BCIs detect changes in brain activity measured through EEG. BCI technologies then relay these signals to machine learning algorithms, which have been trained to pick on EEG signals associated with a certain type of activity, emotions, or expressions. When the ML Algorithms identify the matching EEG signals, the BCI can transmit external commands to control a device, such as a cursor, wheelchair, or even home automation and IoT devices.
The devices are programmed to interpret the command and carry out the respective action, be it a physical action, such as a robotic arm, or a digital action, such as moving the cursor.An example of a digital action could be when a user wearing an EEG device thinks “move up”, and the cursor on the screen moves up.
A good instance of a physical activity performed by an EEG based BCI could be when a person wearing a robotic arm thinks of the action “wave” and the arm waves.
Applications of BCI
Communication Systems for Paralyzed and ALS Patients:
Using a BCI channel to facilitate the communication between a paralyzed/ALS patient and his/her family or doctor. Our BCI headset will capture and interpret the EEG signals to decipher what the individual wants to convey and thus enable him/her to effectively communicate it further.
Mind-Controlled Smart Home Devices:
The user can make use of our BCI headset to control home automation appliances. Using our Wisdom SDK interface, the individual can attribute a particular motor/neurological action to a desired outcome from the home automation appliance. This will enable the individual to control the appliance simply by performing that assigned action.
BCI in Neurological Rehabilitation:
BCI can help individuals who do not have use of their limbs, need assistive devices, or are challenged in speech. Neurological rehabilitation is a doctor-aided process aimed at curing individuals with nervous system disorders, such as motor movement restrictions, injuries, or diseases. The use of BCI in neurological rehabilitation can help accentuate an individual’s ability to navigate and move through dad-to-day activities.
The future may entail a lot of BCI medical surgery products.
BCI in Computer Gaming:
In BCI powered computer gaming, the subject wears a BCI headset while playing VR games which enables him/her to control the game through mental commands. In BCI gaming, rather than using a traditional game controller, the subject makes use of mental commands to enable movement-based actions in the game. The BCI processes mental commands from the EEG and further triggers the corresponding action in the VR game.
...and much more!
How Can BCI Change Our Lives?
BCI represents endless possibilities and the potential to transform the lives of millions of people with motor impairments. The introduction of BCI to the lives of such people means giving them a sense of control over their mobility.
Furthermore, BCI technology could be incorporated into our regular life, making it easier to carry out everyday tasks with ease.
BCI Ethical Issues
With the life-changing applications of BCI, come a bunch of ethical implications.
BCI Security Issues: A BCI is a software application. And like any other software application that requires data to perform seamlessly, BCI does too. This data could be intercepted by hackers for malicious intents. Although BCI cannot be used to extract the intentions, purpose, or thoughts of an individual, it is possible that by introducing certain stimuli, that may also turn into reality.
BCI Privacy Issues: Using an individual’s neural data, it is possible to access the user’s private information. Moreover, concerns over the storage of this data have been expressed- should BCI data be stored as commercial data or as medical information? While much of the discussion surrounding brain-computer interface’s ethical issues are still being shaped, privacy and security issues remain primary concerns.