Brain Machine Interface (or Direct Neural Interface)
Brain machine interface(BMI) is a direct communication pathway between a brain and an external device. This was a subject of science fiction, as seen in the movie Firefox but is now a reality, although still in its early days. Original work in this science began in the 1970’s.
In the movie, Russia has developed an advanced military aircraft that’s weapon systems are controlled by thought, rather than physical controls. The advantage being all a pilot needs to do is think about shooting a missile or counter measures and they are instantly launched/deployed.
No doubt this is one area that this technology will be used in, in the near future. At the moment the technology is being developed for more humane goals. One application is for people who(for example) suffer a stroke, and lose the use of their voice and body, and so they are still mentally the same as before their stroke, but they can’t talk or move.
In this application they wear a cap that detects their brainwaves and they then are able to control a computer by thought alone.From my limited understanding this is possible because their is a particular section of the brain that becomes active when it recognizes something it has seen before. A grid of the letters and other keys from a computer keyboard is displayed on a screen. These letters etc are sequentially flashed white( from a green state)in a rapid and seemingly random fashion. As the user looks at the letter/symbol he/she wants, this part of the brain that recognizes it is triggered, allowing the computer to work out which letter/symbol the user desires. The computer then displays that letter or symbol.
This allows the user to write and so then be able to talk using text to speech technology, or email, sms etc.
This monitoring of that particular section of the brain also has implications for solving crime, as suspects, could be shown images of a crime scene, and only those who recognize it would remain suspects. How infallable this technique turns out to be, remains to be seen.
Another application is for people to use a neuro-prosthetic. The may allow them to open or close a hand to grip items, or to move a limb as desired. This may not require a BMI, as they may interface with a specific part of the nervouse system.This has huge potential for amputees, visually impaired,deaf or blind people, and could one day lead to augmentation rather than just restoration.
Some types of BMI are invasive, involing the implanting of devices in the brain that may contain 30-200 electrodes, while other methods(non-invasive) are using EEG techniques among others.
This is all V cool and who knows what will be possible soon, thought controlled Video cameras, or being able to google things in our minds.Awesome stuff I can’t even imagine.
You can read more about BMI on wikipedia here