Researchers at Brown University have created the first wireless, implantable, rechargeable brain-computer interface. This presents a medical breakthrough for the disabled, which will be tested on humans soon after 13 months of successful trials with monkeys and pigs.
The brain-computer interface (BCI) digitises brain information, and transmits that data to where it is needed. Giving people who are paralysed or have diminished motor functions the full connected control of a robotic arm for example. Beyond prosthesis, it can also be used to clearly monitor all brain activity during complex tasks, such as socialising or foraging in terms of the monkeys used for testing. However, the usual status quo for BCIs was something bulky and tethered to a computer. To not be strapped to a chair while using your prosthetic limb would be rather empowering.
While it is fascinating to see the aids of such technology, that wired connection removes the chance of real portability. This is where this new BCI comes in: made out of hermetically sealed titanium, it doesn't need to be connected to a computer, rather transmitting data via an antenna. It looks slightly like a pacemaker and has the standard technology for something like this to run:
- Li-ion battery
- Inductive charging loop
- Wireless antenna, which can transmit at 24Mbps (take that Virgin media)
- A small chip with 100 electrodes protruding from it, for absorbing any brain or sensory activity
With this set up, and a six hour battery life, we have something of a scientific breakthrough. Mind-controlled prosthetics without a cord are now a strong possibility, making for a huge step in this medical field. Until more testing is done, this BCI has not been approved for human use yet, although all the technology can feasibly used in our bodies.
Source: Journal of neural engineering