CHINESE BOFFINS have developed the "world's first" mind-reading chip that they claim enables people to control computers using just brain signals.
Dubbed Brain Talker, this Brain-Computer Codec Chip (BC3) has been designed by a joint team of scientists from the China Electronics Corporation and Tianjin University and was unveiled last month at the World Intelligence Congress held at Tianjin Municipality in north China.
The researchers designed the new BC3 chip to enhance the brain-computer interface (BCI) technology, which aims to decode the mental intent of a person by intercepting neural electrical signals, without using body's neuro-muscular pathways.
The concept of a BCI is nothing new; BCI is a device that establishes a simple communication between computers and human brains and enables a person to control an electronic device, such as a computer, using just brain waves and without requiring any verbal instruction or movement. Scientists have already designed some BCI devices that enable a paralysed person to control a robotic arm in order to feed themselves.
The efforts with BCIs have shown encouraging results so far, and it is believed that such technologies could improve the lives of people who can't move or speak.
In 2017, Netflix said it had designed a headband that can read a wearer's mind and select shows to watch based on his/her thoughts.
Brain Talker works by first detecting small electrical pulses within the cerebral cortex and then converting them into signals that can be interpreted by a computer.
"This BC3 [Brain-Computer Codec Chip] has the ability to discriminate minor neural electrical signals and decode their information efficiently, which can greatly enhance the speed and accuracy of brain-computer interfaces," said Ming Dong, director of the Academy of Medical Engineering and Translational Medicine at Tianjin University.
Brain Talker is smaller than other BCI chips, according to the researchers, and also offers better precision in decoding signals as well as faster communication ability.
The research team hopes that the ability of the Brain Talker to decode neural pulses could eventually help in improving the accuracy and speed of BCI devices.
In future, this technology could be used for a variety of purposes, such as imparting education to disabled people, gaming, or creating medical devices for people that have problems with body movements, for example, those suffering from motor neurone disease.
The researchers have not yet revealed whether Brain Talker will be worn outside the body or embedded in the user's brain.
"Brain-Computer Interfaces hold a promising future," said Dong. "The Brain Talker chip advances BCI technology allowing it to become more portable, wearable, and accessible to the general public," he added. µ
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