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Brain-to-computer Interface, the Future of User Interface

Brain-to-computer Interface, the Future of User Interface

JEONG Dong-Young

Oct. 28, 2013

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Brain-to-computer interface (BCI) -- operating a computer through brainwaves -- is gaining momentum as a next-generation technology for everyday needs. The term was coined in 1973 by computer scientist Jacques Vidal at the University of California, Los Angeles, and by 2001 tangible results had evolved enough for MIT Technology Review to name BCI one of the 10 emerging technologies that will change the world. Following up, IBM in 2011 placed BCI at the top of five innovations that will change people's lives significantly during the next five years.

BCI hurdles technological limits of conventional interfaces. Voice and motion recognition incurs cognitive costs; the user has to remember a command set (keywords that are recognizable and specific motions). A BCI system skirts those needs and can execute multiple commands.

In a BCI system, a brainwave is read and converted into a digital signal that is processed. When body motion is intended or when a brain responds to an external stimulus, the brainwave of a specific part of the brain changes. The types and patterns of the brainwave changes can then be analyzed to identify commands and intentions.

There are two ways to measure brainwaves. One is an invasive method that interprets signals directly from the brain cortex. The other is a non-invasive method that interprets signals from outside the brain. The former provides more accurate readings but requires surgery and management is difficult. Research and development is still under way. A non-invasive brainwave measuring device in a headset form has been introduced recently and it is leading to research and practical applications of BCI technology that interprets brainwaves and controls device.

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