Brain-Neural-Computer-Interaction (BNCI) uses, for instance, direct electroencephalography (EEG) in combination with information from sensors that capture signals from muscles, the electromyography (EMG).
Smart System Integration
The new opportunities are huge: instant communication, increased ability to train the brain, to enjoy ourselves and interact with any electronic device, and above all alleviating serious motor / mobility impairments.
Today, without full knowledge of the brain, BNCI systems act as observers, translating brain patterns into meaningful outputs. Smart design of SW-HW components will alleviate difficulties in reliably interpreting brain signal and thus enable the transition from sensing to control.
- System engineering could compensate for limited signal bandwidth that involves design of HW/SW architectures including BNCI and different multi-sensor interfaces as well as programming abstraction and Application Programming Interfaces to facilitate modularity and flexible integration.
- Software tools enable users to integrate BNCI functionalities within the envisaged applications, allow easy plug-in into other applications and facilitate training and usability. Tools and standardized user interfaces aim to provide full accessibility and use by non-experts.
- Sensor technology is used to monitor brain activity. In the supported projects, the sensors are non-invasive (i.e. brainwaves are recorded from the surface of the scalp rather than from implanted sensors).
Research for applications for persons with disabilities
The European Union financed a cluster of research and development projects under FP7 programme. They focused a lot to BNCI research and development, and aimed to bring the technology for people who have severely restricted body movement, e.g. to communicate with people, to control simple devices or in the future to control artificial hands or limbs.
BNCI systems might also provide other indirect functions through passive monitoring and rehabilitation of disorders such as stroke, autism, epilepsy, emotional disorders and so on.
What are the challenges today?
BNCI is an information channel for sending messages and control commands direct from the brain to the external world. The critical progress needed for BNCI proliferation is not only in technical terms:
- Economy of scale – BNCI should be made useful to a wider group of users. Beyond the design for people with disabilities, a possible spill over to mainstream technologies could reduce costs and increase performance.
- Cool Design – In BNCI systems, in particular, the sensor should be cosmetically appealing to a broad range of users. Also, usability is of primary importance in people's perception.
- Zero Training – Preparation time and the presence of experts to set up BNCI should be reduced in the future. Ideally the user can use the BNCI system independently.
- Interdisciplinary research - Stimulating increased networking and co-operation among engineering disciplines, computer science, neuroscience, psychology, medicine and bio-physiology.