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Brain-Computer Interface: Computers Enabling Human Minds to Process the World Around Them

By Dick Weisinger

Brain-Computer interfaces (BCI) are being developed that allow human brainwaves to be captured and converted into signals that can be processed and interpreted by computers. The technology is especially beneficial to people who have been handicapped by, for example, the loss of vision, speech, or movement.

Matt Angle, CEO at Paradromotics, said that “BCI isn’t just an improved technology – it’s also a fundamentally different way of looking at brain health. Once you realize that the brain is a data organ, many classically challenging health conditions can be reframed from a data perspective. Paralysis is a loss of control signals to the body. Blindness is a lack of visual data in the brain. Eventually, even certain types of mental illness will be viewed and treated through the lens of neural activity.”

Alexandre Gonfalonieri, AI consultant, wrote in an article for Harvard Business Review (HBR), that BCI technology will likely be used in the future by professionals to monitor things like drowsiness and focus. It may become mandatory for pilots, surgeons, air-traffic controllers, operators of dangerous equipment, and others to wear a BCI while they work to ensure that they are able to fully focus on their jobs.

In a Stanford study, brainwaves were processed using AI and converted into text in real time and set a typing speed record. “So far, a major focus of BCI research has been on restoring gross motor skills, such as reaching and grasping or point-and-click typing with a computer cursor. However, rapid sequences of highly dexterous behaviors, such as handwriting or touch typing, might enable faster rates of communication.”

BCI-generated brainwaves could be used for things like generating a secure biometric identification. Emily Waltz, freelance science journalist, wrote for IEEE Spectrum that “when we perform mental tasks like picturing a shape or singing a song in our heads, our brains generate unique neuronal electrical signals. A billion people could mentally hum the same song and no two brain-wave patterns generated by that task would be alike. An electroencephalograph (EEG) would read those brain waves using noninvasive electrodes that record the signals. The unique patterns can be used like a password or biometric identification.” HBR referred to this kind of biometric as a ‘passthought’ — like login passphrase.

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