Looking ahead to 2050 - Brain Computer Interfaces IV

By 2035 the expectation is to have speech decoders ready to be implanted in the brain to let people that have lost the capability to speak to communicate via a voice synthesiser using by their thoughts. Credit: BNCI Horizon 2020

Although an advanced research area, BCI is already a reality in terms of products and is seen as an opportunity to create more products in the short term and there are quite a number of start ups working on it that have harvested hundreds of million $ from investment funds and jobs opportunities.

Facebook created in 2016 a new research division aiming at creating a future where brain to brain communication becomes possible and it looks to commercial products, and services, to be deployed at the end of this decade.

The area of BCI for prosthetics and for controlling home appliances for paralysed people is at a stage of proto-production whilst simple BCI in gaming is already a reality and there is speculation on the appeal of mind (brain) controlled toys.

The expectation is to have within the next decade brain implants that can control robots by thoughts improving the quality of life of paralysed people and in the following decade brain implants that can control speech synthesisers to restore communications capabilities in those who lost them following some types of stroke. 

Although progress in BCI will be inevitable, and their application to people to overcome disabilities plus applications in the military field and in gaming, I am skeptical in a BCI that can substitute the mediation of our senses in our everyday life. The brain to brain communication, as explained in the previous post, might become a technical possibility but I am not convinced that we will adopt it in day to day life. The (awkward) implications seem too big to overcome.

Additionally, I am not convinced that in the coming 30 years technology will advance to the point of making BCI seamless, not intrusive. And this is a show stopper for me.

Having said that, and knowing that one should "never say never", I can see some amazing applications changing our perspectives on our own brain that could be leveraged for better education and awareness. If I do not see in my life time an application of a Brain to Brain interface I can imagine a Brain to Wearable interface augmenting my understanding and perception of the world...

Author - Roberto Saracco

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