Thinking about the future with brain computer interfaces

What’s cooler than controlling the world around you with your mind? Nothing! According to OpenBCI’s Conor Russomanno, this dream is now coming closer to reality with the help of Makers.

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As previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, brain-computer interfaces have made great progress as of late, thanks in part to companies like OpenBCI, whose co-founder recently shared his thoughts on the surging BCI movement with MAKE Magazine.

“Though BCI is in an embryonic state — with a definition that evolves by the day — it’s typically a system that enables direct communication between a brain and a computer, and one that will inevitably have a major impact on the future of humanity,” Russomanno writes.

The Maker notes devices from Emotiv, NueroSky, and Not Impossible Labs as being innovate yet he still has a strong desire to further utilize, “Brain-Computer Interface technology to create a comprehensive communication system for patients with ALS and other neurodegenerative disorders, which inhibit motor function and the ability to speak.”

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BCIs entail a wide range of technologies which vary in terms of invasiveness, ease-of-use, functionality, cost, and real-world practicality. They include fMRI, cochlear implants, and EEG, Russomanno explains.

He holds a contained excitement for the future of BCI saying, “Each day it gets easier to leverage technology to expand the capabilities of that squishy thing inside our heads. Real-world BCI will be vital in reverse-engineering and further understanding the human brain.”

The OpenBCI co-founder was first introduced to the mind-controlling technology just two and half years ago and is astounded by the growth of the community in that time span. He specifies one catalyst to the prosperity of the movement – Makers! He believes, “While these devices have opened up BCI to innovators, there’s still a huge void waiting to be filled by those of us who like to explore the inner workings of our gadgets.”

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Russomanno describes he and his partner Joel Murphy’s creation of OpenBCI as “a powerful, customizable tool that would enable innovators with varied backgrounds and skill levels to collaborate on the countless subchallenges of interfacing the brain and body.” The platform is based upon an Arduino shield prototype and sports an Atmel ATmega328 chip onboard. The design has even evolved to include the world’s first 3D-printed Electroencephalography (EEG) headset.

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“In the next 5 to 10 years we will see more widespread use of BCIs, from thought-controlled keyboards and mice to wheelchairs to new-age, immersive video games that respond to biosignals.” the Maker predicts. While some products similar to these have already hit the market, he reveals, “They’re not ready; we still need makers, who’ll hack and build and experiment, to use them to change the world.”

Right on, Conor! The Maker community is always up for a good challenge.

 

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