The world of technology is constantly evolving, and one of the most exciting advancements on the horizon is the development of Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs). BCIs allow for direct communication between the human brain and an external device, opening up a world of possibilities for human-computer interaction (HCI).
In recent years we can see the development of cutting-edge technology known as Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs) that has the potential to bridge the gap between the human minds and external devices. BCI is the communication link between the brain and other external devices that analyses, and translates its command into it.
This article will give you an insight into how this new field of Brain-Computer Interface is revolutionizing the world today and the potential it has in the coming years.
1. What Are Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs)?
BCIs which is also known as smart brains act as a bridge or a communication pathway between the brain’s electrical activity and an external device, allowing for the exchange of signals and information. Mostly, a computer or a robotic limb.
Traditionally, they depend on methods such as electroencephalography (EEG) to review and analyze the activities of the brain. However, recent advancements have paved the way for more sophisticated and non-invasive BCIs, such as wearable headbands and earbuds.
The external devices try to record the brain’s electric signals with EEG, EOG, and EMG methods. These devices use AI-powered software to convert emotions and thoughts of the brain to put it use for a specific purpose.
To extract the brain signals and develop patterns, they use multiple sensors and other technology. This is a groundbreaking development that happened in the field of Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs) that made it possible to explore new realms of using this technology than the initial thought of using it as a helping mechanism for people with physical disabilities.
Now it has developed in such a way that it has the ability to revolutionize the overall human-computer interaction and also to enhance cognitive performance.
2. Birth Of Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs)
Even though it might seem like a new concept, this technology goes way back than expected. It was initially developed to help paralyzed individuals control assistive external devices just with their thoughts. These early BCIs utilized invasive techniques, requiring surgical implantation of electrodes directly into the brain to record neural activity and facilitate communication with external devices.
Even though these BCIs provided us with high-resolution data, but they also came with many risks and limitations.
However, as technology has advanced, new use cases and applications have emerged. BCIs can now be utilized as neurofeedback training tools to enhance cognitive performance and improve mental states. Hans Berger was the one who discovered the brain’s electrical activity and acquired it with the ECG method. This was back in 1924.
3. Types Of BCIs
3.1 Invasive BCI
They are directly implanted into the grey matter of the brain during neurosurgery. These are tiny chips implanted inside the scalp that can gather the most precise signals. Invasive BCI is the most preferred BCI since they do not seem to have any long-term effect and also for its low cost compared to others. But it carries a risk of infection or brain damage.
3.2 Partially Invasive BCI
They are devices that have two parts connected. These are implanted inside the skull but rest outside the brain instead of within the grey matter. Because of this, the brain signals are lesser and it is also considered less risky compared to Invasive BCI.
3.3 Non-Invasive BCI
This is the easiest method of BCI that consists of devices worn on the head, like a helmet or headphones known as electroencephalograph (EEG). As the scalp absorbs these devices cannot produce precise signals. Devices like wearable headbands and earbuds have made non-invasive BCIs more accessible to the general public, allowing individuals to interact with technology using their thoughts alone. It is a safer technique and provides more accurate results.
4. Advancement In Non Invasive BCIs
If we see in recent years, noninvasive BCIs compared to invasive BCIs have become more accessible to people. The main reason for this is the employment of techniques like EEG that have the ability to detect signals of the brain from the scalp. It is considered more user-friendly than other BCIs.
The most famous noninvasive BCI is Neurosky. It uses EEG technology and is well known to be a consumer-friendly product. This has various modes through which one can test a person’s level of attention, mediation level, and mental effort. Neurosky enables the most advanced biometrics in mobile and wearable devices. It is considered to be the world’s smallest EEG chip.
The main reason for these advancements in noninvasive BCIs is that it is much cheaper to work with. And another important reason is that many people can work in it. It is not like an invasive BCI where you need a medical professional.
5. The Impact On Human-Computer Interaction
As the technology around the BCI integration develops, it has the potential to change the way we interact with technology. BCIs offer a more direct and intuitive way of communicating with devices. The traditional method we use for inputs such as keyboards might disappear from the equation.
Imagine controlling a drone or playing a video game you love just be thinking. Pretty cool right? Well, these BCIs can help you to a seamless and immersive experience, that allows you to use the technology easily and makes it a natural process of engagement.
As this development occurs, it can easily close the gap between humans and machines. And Human Computer Interaction will touch the heights of creating an interactive platform between them in ways you cannot even imagine. BCI develops the HCI process and brings in drastic changes in technology.
6. Enhancing Accessibility
The traditional approach of using inputs might be challenging for people with physical disabilities. One of the main benefits of BCIs in human-computer interaction is that it has the potential to improve accessibility to people. It is a main concern since it can limit the ability of an individual to fully engage with technology.
For example, let’s take the BCIs that allow individuals with motor impairments, the ability to control prosthetic limbs easily. And also to navigate the digital interfaces. This advancement in technology has the potential to enhance the quality of life for people with physical disabilities. It becomes a ground for them with several opportunities for communication and independence.
BCIS bypasses any physical limitations a person has and offers solutions for individuals to interact with these external devices by just using their brain signals.
7. Applications Of BCI In Medicine
BCI is what it is today is because of its advancements in the medical field. It has changed the way we approach treating patients. This is the sense of communication with individuals suffering from neurological conditions or injuries.
BCI technology offers patients with conditions like spinal injuries, stroke, and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) a lifeline by restoring communication and motor functions. It decodes the neural signals from the brain which then enables the individuals to control assistive devices. These may be prosthetic limbs, or robotic exoskeletons just with their thoughts.
This technology has drastically improved the lives of people with disabilities and made their lives easier.
8. Enhanced Cognitive Performance
But it’s not like the only place of development of BCIs is the medical field. It has a wider reach of usage beyond medical applications. BCIs have shown significant progress in enhancing cognitive performance. Cognitive performance or ability includes learning, memory, attention, etc.
Neurofeedback training is a technique that uses BCIs to provide real-time feedback on brain activity. This has been used as a base to explore cognitive abilities and to improve them.
This feedback training system will monitor the brain signals and provide users with feedback on the study. With that, the individuals can be benefitted by improving overall cognitive functions such as improved focus, and attention and optimizing their mental state.
Using BCIs in the workplace will be a common practice in the coming years as it has these features that can improve the workforce of the company. Especially for monitoring the productivity and performance levels of the workers, BCIs can be used.
9. Communication And Neuroprosthetics
The revolution that BCI can create in the field of communication is immense. For people with severe motor disabilities, ALS, locked-in syndrome, etc. It translates the neural signals from the brain into text or speech format. This helps people with these disabilities to communicate with the world.
And when we see Neuroprosthetics, like artificial limbs and brain-controlled exoskeletons, can restore the functions of the lost motor. This is groundbreaking progress that is made to overcome all the challenges people with physical disabilities have suffered till now.
10. Redefining Gaming And Virtual Reality
This did not just have an impact on the medical and cognitive performance of people. They have also marketed their foot in the world of entertainment, especially in the gaming industry.
Just imagine you can control the characters in the video game you play just with your thoughts. No need for handheld controllers or keyboards we have today. BCIs can take gaming and virtual reality to a whole new level.
Although it is a futuristic concept, BCIs are growing rapidly to make this into reality faster than expected. BCIs are translating the neural activity into actionable commands, that can offer a different level of interactivity. This setup can fade out the line between the physical and virtual worlds.
With this, players can interact with the characters in the virtual world using their minds and make an immersive gaming experience to navigate everything in the virtual environment. BCIs can offer equal opportunity for all people to enjoy this way of gaming.
11. Ethical Concerns
Yes, with these new technologies, there are a lot of benefits in human-computer interaction. But the concerns and challenges need to be addressed before it goes any further.
The BCIs allow for direct access to a person’s thoughts and brain activity. In this case, privacy and data security become a main concern. It is important to safeguard this data and protect the privacy of an individual as there are high chances of misusage of this data that can pose a threat.
Also there are a lot of chances of manipulation of BCIs by unauthorized access of the personal information of an individual. This raises security concerns around BCIs. So, there is a need for strict regulations and protocols to avoid this misuse. We need a robust cybersecurity measure.
We talked a lot about how BCIs can benefit the lives of individuals with disabilities. So, it is important to make sure that it is accessible to all. If there are any potential barriers that can possibly hinder the inclusivity of BCI usage among everyone. Then we must address it and find a way to bypass it.
There are factors like cost, expertise, and training that can limit the accessibility of BCIs for certain groups of people. But as BCI constantly grows and develops, we can bridge the gaps and make sure that this technology is accessible to all irrespective of their socioeconomic status.
12. Regulation And Policy
As far as any new technology is concerned. We need to establish clear policies and regulations that are needed in terms of its development as well as its usage. Since it has the power to outpace the formulation of governing policies, it leaves a gap between how the framework is set up and the advancement in BCIs.
Any type of regulation that addresses the need to safeguard ourselves from potential risks should be welcomed. And it should be done in a way through which, we acquire the maximum potential of the technology and the misuse is minimized.
It is not as easy as it sounds to establish a comprehensive framework that guides the ethical considerations regarding BCIs. It requires collaboration between many governing bodies, stakeholders, regulatory agencies etc.
13. The Future Of BCIs in HCI
As BCIs continue to evolve and become more advanced, their impact on HCI will only grow. We can sense seamless interactions between humans and computers.
BCIs are now integrated into mobile and other wearable devices like virtual reality headsets and IoT devices. This will even enhance the human-computer interaction process. With artificial intelligence coming into play, the combination of BCIs with AI technology can create a personalized experience tailored to suit the needs and preferences of an individual.
Data security and privacy is seen as a concern regarding BCIs. However, improved blockchain technology and its association with BCIs can ensure secured data that can be stored and accessed only for individuals to have control over their brain data. This prevents the misuse of personal data.
As we see researchers and developers continue to push the line beyond what is possible in the field of BCIs in HCI. The whole Human-Computer Interaction is redefined with these ethical considerations. It will be accessible to all.
Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) pose a substantial advancement in HCI and in technology as a whole. From creating an accessible space for users, helping people with disabilities, and improving virtual reality and gaming.
BCIs have the power to reshape our lives in every way possible. But as we know with growing technological development, there are a lot of ethical factors to think about before implementing them. So, it is important to make sure that those are done before thinking about the full-fledged development of BCIs.
There are a lot of concerns surrounding BCIs such as privacy, security, accessibility, and regulation. So, as we venture into a new journey of brain-computer interfaces, we need to consider the ethical usage of this technology that restricts misuse.
New technologies like AI and blockchain have the power to harness a new paradigm that changes the usage of BCI in HCI. As studies and research in this field go on, these new technologies can impact the way we study BCI. And it also can transform the interaction and make it more intuitive.
BCI is a remarkable tool in building a future where the boundaries between mind and machine become increasingly blurred. The future of BCIs in HCI is indeed promising, and it is up to us to navigate the ethical challenges and harness the full potential of this groundbreaking technology. It is a cutting edge relatively new topic.
The evolution of this technology represents a significant milestone we have crossed in human-computer interaction. As we go further into this field of study, we need to make full use of enhancing this into a new human experience that also upholds basic values and ethics.
However, this is a growing field and to become a usable product, several companies and researchers are working on how to make it consumer friendly as that is the only way to penetrate market share using this technology.
For that to happen, they need to address the shortfalls they are currently facing in terms of improving the decoding signals from the brain and how communication works between various regions.