What is the Future of Brain-Machine Interfaces?

By: Aaron Franz
first posted June 2010



Outside the NIH sponsored Neural Interfaces Conference I conducted a few short video interviews with some attendees. We talked about deep brain stimulation, cochlear implants, and much more.  (video no longer online)


It is amazing to realize that this conference has been going on for 39 years. Most people are unaware of the progress that has been made during this time. I would go further by saying that the experts themselves are oftentimes unaware of the many projects that exist beyond their specific area of study. The military use of these technologies was only alluded to here, but it has in fact been an area of intense research. Consider the following links:
super soldier 2030
2001 NBIC report

The NBIC report is extremely important. Beyond outlining military uses for converging technologies another extremely important concept is detailed at length. The "enhancement of human performance" is explained as the overarching goal. This is extremely interesting, because the word performance requires a definition of standards to have meaning. What standards of performance are being made, and who is making them?

It was incredibly interesting to talk to the NIC attendees about deep brain stimulation as it relates to Parkinson's disease. In my post A Potential Cure For Parkinson's Disease? I predicted that a neural chip would one day be lauded as the "cure" for Parkinson's. This would cause a media blitz that would propel neural interfaces from obscurity to a level of massive recognition. This would also erode their stigma, and lead to the acceptance of further neural interface technologies.

First you cure a disease, then you may begin enhancing human performance, and then finally neural interfaces can be taken for granted completely. No doubt, the entertainment industry will play a huge part in this field. Simple brain-machine interfaces are already being developed for video games. It is likely that video game "mind controllers" will be one of the first big BMI products to hit the market.