By: Sudhakar Kumar, Sunil K. Singh
Can you login to a computer without coming into physical contact with it, i.e., with your mind? With this process, a new biometric feature can be developed for authenticating a computer user in real-time, which involves brain waves. Or, can you control the security of a computer by changing the password with your thoughts? Sounds impossible, isn’t it? But it is actually possible through Brain Computer Interface, or BCI in short. So, what is BCI? A Brain–computer interface (BCI) is a framework that actions the movement of the central nervous system (CNS) and converts it into fake yield that replaces, re-establishes, upgrades, supplements, or further develops normal CNS yield, and in this manner changes the continuous communications between the CNS and its outside or inner environment . With the help of BCI technology, researchers have been able to control drones in the sky, improving the quality of life of older adults and elderly patients, and even entering very complex commands as an input. But is it different from human computer interaction? How does it work? To understand this concept, we need to understand brain waves and how we can calibrate them.
Ever thought, what are these thoughts?
The human brain contains hundreds of billion nerve cells called neurons, which are connected by synapses, trillions of connections. On an average, each connection transmits about one signal per second. Thoughts can be considered as electric impulses generated by neurons. These neurons release special chemicals known as neurotransmitters, which generate these electrical signals in neighboring neurons .
To understand neuronal firing, we need to understand three parts of a neuron, which are the soma, dendrites, and axons.
- Soma: It is the “brain” of the brain cell which processes information and determines its importance for transfer to other cells.
- Dendrites: They are tree-like structures capable of receiving and gathering information from other neurons for delivery to the soma.
- Axon: Important information is passed from neurons to neurons through axons (act as wires). The axon is insulated with a fatty substance called myelin, to keep electrical current strong and flowing directionally.
The course of ordinary neuronal terminating happens as a correspondence between neurons through electrical impulses and neurotransmitters. If enough neurotransmitters are released, neuron firing is repeated in the next neurons. The propagation of thoughts depends on two things-how many neurons are firing and how often.
How Brain Computer Interface works?
The BCI works on the concept of these neurons firing by measuring the number of neurons firing event per second, i.e., the frequency of brain waves, and measuring the number of neurons involved, i.e., the amplitude of the brain waves. These changes in voltage are measured using electrodes attached to the top of your head or hooked up directly to neurons by drilling through the skull. Also, these waves are categorized into 4 types, namely alpha, beta, theta, and delta waves, which signifies different mental status according to frequency ranges and other features. With the help of these different categories of brain waves, BCI can measure human emotions like alertness, attention, focus and stress. Figure 1 illustrates the block diagram of BCI.
Types of BCI:
Brain computer interfaces can be further divided into three main groups: invasive, semi-invasive and non-invasive. Not to mention, these types have their own rewards and drawbacks. In invasive techniques, with the help of medical surgery, a special device is directly inserted into the human brain to capture brain waves. In semi-invasive, the special device is attached to the skull.
In contrast to these two techniques, non-invasive means no device is attached to the human brain and is hence considered the safest way. Be that as it may, these gadgets can just catch “more fragile” human brain signals and flags because of the deterrent of the skull. The discovery of cerebrum signals is accomplished through electrodes put on the scalp.
In non-invasive BCI, there are numerous advances taking place. For instance, EEG (electroencephalography), MEG (magnetoencephalography), or MRT (magnetic resonance tomography). Electroencephalography (EEG): It is a physiological technique for decision to record the electrical signal created by the mind through cathodes put on the scalp surface. Non-invasive EEG (electroencephalogram)-based BCIs are the most widely researched approach.
Most BCIs were initially developed for medical applications . There are many instances in healthcare which exploit mind signals in totally related stages, including counteraction, location, conclusion, recovery, and reclamation. Smart homes, offices, and traffic can exploit this BCI, which will offer more luxury, physiological control, and, most importantly, safety. In amusement, a computer game called BrainArena where the players can join a collective or serious football match-up through two BCIs. They can score goals by envisioning left or right-hand actions and movements.
Potential of BCI in the Future:
You can measure its potential by the fact that in recent years, ‘Elon Musk’ announced a $27 million investment in Neuralink at its start, a venture to develop a BCI which can improve human communication with the help of AI. Neuralink has got over $205 million in funding since its establishment in 2016 . The Neurable company invented the “world’s first brain-controlled virtual reality (VR) game“. This BCI company recently raised $10 million to move beyond game making and to develop some next-generation real-world applications. And so on.
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Cite this article:
Sudhakar Kumar, Sunil K. Singh (2021), Brain Computer Interaction (BCI): A Way to Interact with Brain Waves. Insights2Techinfo, pp. 1