The ability of computers to enhance and augment both mental and physical abilities and potential is no longer the exclusive realm of science fiction writers. It is becoming a reality. Brain Computer Interface technology will help define the potential of the human race. It holds the promise of bringing sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and the return of normal functionality to the physically impaired. A miracle? Hardly. But perhaps the next closest thing.  

BCI in Health Care

Studies show that patients with access to brain-computer interface technology recover more quickly from serious mental traumas, especially if there is underlying physical trauma that renders the patient incapable of communicating. By interfacing with a computer through a direct neural connection, patients report a higher rate of mental engagement and, ultimately, recovery. BCI technology shows promising signs in both preventing and delaying the onset of dementia, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease in the elderly.

In Asia,  Brain-Computer Interface technology has been applied to help handicapped individuals write Chinese characters. Called the P300 Chinese Speller, this program, still in the prototype phase, promises to change the lives of millions of Chinese people suffering from paralysis.

BCI in Consumer Electronics

One of the hottest gifts this past Christmas season included a "levitation"  ball that responded to changes in brain waves. There were numerous models, including the Star Wars "Force Trainer" game. A BCI chip monitored the player's mental state and adjusted airflow to a ball inside a plastic chamber - causing it to go up or down in direct response to the player's thoughts. Other gadgets and games include BCI devices that allow end users to form conscious mental connections with mobile phonesPCs and even dreams.

BCI & The Military

Military use of BCI technology is being applied to enhance troop responses to certain orders, situations and words. Recognizable brainwave patterns communicated between soldiers has given rise to what might be best described as technology generated telepathy. A soldier need only think a command to instantly broadcast it to other troops.

In addition, military human augmentation suits confer superhuman abilities in the form of a BCI exoskeleton. Human movement is amplified so that equipped troops exhibit tremendous strength in the performance of their respective military tasks.

New BCI film from the University of Essex. Courtesy of Paolo Sedazzari.

BCI Latest Developments

The field of BCI is rapidly evolving. Listed below are just a few of the developments receiving media attention.

* At the recent CES 2011 trade show on Saturday, January 8, tech journalist Evan Ackerman was the first person to test the prototype of the Hybrid Assisted Limb, a Japanese-developed robot suit. The suit is designed to help restore mobility to the elderly and handicapped, as well as to give military personnel superhuman strength.

* The XWave iPhone accessory is another recent BCI product release. This headset plugs directly into compliant iPhones and reads brainwaves.

* Japanese researchers furthered development of devices for people suffering from ALS to both operate robotic limbs and to display thoughts on a screen. They are currently in the process of securing funding for additional research and development.

See this BCI video from This technology is on the fast track. 1,000 years of linear progress requires only ten years when accelerated on an exponential scale.