Brain-Computer Interface is Arriving

With every email or text message I type on the soft keyboard of my smart phone (which happens to be an iPhone), I desire more and more to have an interface that instantly transcribes my thoughts into the message that I want to send. Dictating the message to Siri is welcomed relief, but the myriad and random errors that this Apple speech-to-text algorithm makes only partially eliminate the need to correct bizarre typing errors.

Advances toward such a brain-computer-interface, or BCI, are not coming from the company touted by the pasty South African solar reflector, but from Synchron, an Australian company that reports remarkable success in enabling severely disabled subjects to perform basic tasks on a smartphone or tablet, two devices that will confer substantial ability and independence to people who can not move any limbs. The IEEE Fixing the Future podcast features an incisive and insightful interview with the founder of the company. This episode is a very worthwhile listen because of the clarity with which the problem and the neurological reasoning behind the solution are presented. These insights enable one to navigate the space and to separate the hype from real progress. Furthermore, there is a beautiful delineation of the ethical ways in which one must approach an admirable and inspiring path that is loaded with innumerable ethical and moral landmines. These are the subtleties that are assuredly omitted by the hype machine.

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