When the forefathers of the Internet were still in diapers, the idea of being able to connect to people across the world in real time was considered preposterous.
Yet, today there’s a non-stop animated-GIF-and-filter party happening on social media every single day. So, when startups like Neurable say they intend to design computer interfaces that can directly connect to a user’s brain, it’s likely to capture the attention of investors and competitors alike.
Thinking Your Way Across the Web
Neurable is just one of a handful of startups working on brain-computer interfaces.
Neurable’s chief, Ramses Alcaide, is an electrical engineer/neuroscientist working inside a virtual world. In Alcaide’s prototype, the user is trapped in a room with white walls and a ball. The goal is to get out of the room using the ball, which the user controls by thinking about picking it up and moving it around.
Other significant players in the field include Facebook and Elon Musk’s Neuralink. Facebook’s Regina Dugan proposed typing with the mind when she announced the company’s efforts on an optical brain interface, according to the New York Times.
The social media giant asserts that humans will be able to type five times faster with their thoughts than with a smartphone keyboard. The Facebook interface design would still remain outside the skull, however. Musk’s more enthusiastic plan includes implanting a computer interface directly into the brain of healthy people.
Fighting Challenging Disabilities
Although many may think that human brain-computer interfaces are a lot of unnecessary showing off, there are many positive possible outcomes with such technology.
Companies like startup Paradromics are looking for ways to help patients operate complex machines with their minds. This way, blind, deaf or paralyzed patients could operate on a more level playing field with able-bodied peers, giving them more opportunities for career and personal advancement.
Significant government financing made possible by a 2013 initiative of the Obama administration has spurred interest in brain interface research as of late. Between this and the venture capital that has been attracted to this niche industry, it may not be long before keyboards are replaced with headsets that read brain impulses.