What is a Brain Computer Interface?

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A brain computer interface (BCI) is a device that lets people with cognitive or motor impairments to control computers or other devices. BCIs translate brain signals using a variety of sensors, recording techniques, signal-processing algorithm and machine learning. They can operate a wide variety of devices, from cursors on computers to wheelchairs and robotic arms.

Most BCIs measure activity from the scalp, such as electroencephalographic (EEG) or functional near-infrared imaging (fNIRS) signaling. The signals are recorded by a device that detects the presence of neuronal activity, and software converts them into operating commands.

In many BCI systems the user has to undergo an iterative process of instruction to produce signals that the system recognizes. For example in a BCI that is designed to type letters the user has to imagine moving their right or left hand.

The most exciting BCI innovations are implantable or invasible devices that record directly on neural tissue, instead of the scalp. These devices are more accurate than non-invasive BCIs however they require surgery and come with some risks.

BCIs that are infected are still being developed and patients must be aware of the potential risks and benefits. Privacy and data security are also major concerns as BCIs detect neural signals, which could contain sensitive information regarding health or behavior. Some people are not a fan of the technology due to fears that hackers can gain access to their minds and manage them.

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