Until recently, the dream of being able to control one’s environment through thoughts had been in the realm of science fiction. However, the advance of technology has brought a new reality: Today, humans can use the electrical signals from brain activity to interact with, influence, or change their environments. The emerging field of brain-computer interface (BCI) technology may allow individuals unable to speak and/or use their limbs to once again communicate or operate assistive devices for walking and manipulating objects.
What is Brain Computer Interface?
A BCI is a computer-based system that acquires brain signals, analyzes them, and translates them into commands that are relayed to an output device to carry out a desired action.
It is a misconception that BCIs are mind-reading devices. Brain-computer interfaces do not read minds in the sense of extracting information from unsuspecting or unwilling users but enable users to act on the world by using brain signals rather than muscles. The user and the BCI work together. The user, often after a period of training, generates brain signals that encode intention, and the BCI, also after training, decodes the signals and translates them into commands to an output device that accomplishes the user’s intention.
Components of BCI system
The purpose of a BCI is to detect and quantify features of brain signals that indicate the user’s intentions and to translate these features in real time into device commands that accomplish the user’s intent. To achieve this, a BCI system consists of 4 sequential components (1) signal acquisition, (2) feature extraction, (3) feature translation, and (4) device output. These 4 components are controlled by an operating protocol that defines the onset and timing of operation, the details of signal processing, the nature of the device commands, and the oversight of performance. An effective operating protocol allows a BCI system to be flexible and to serve the specific needs of each user.