Computing Straight from Your Skull

With our tiny little computers in our pockets and our touchscreen interfaces and the advent of wearable tech, it’s real easy to fool ourselves into thinking we’re a part of the advanced future.

But the advanced future is going to look back at our relationship with small computers as quaint and a little silly.

The real game-changing is happening in places like Brown University, where just recently they announced the creation of the world’s first wireless, implantable, long-term brain-computer interface, or BCI.

BCIs are telemetry devices, ways for physicians and researchers to gather accurate data about a patient, a disease, and the effects of treatment. In more advanced cases, they’ve been used to control prosthetic limbs. And while we’ve had BCIs for a while, they could only be used while the person was plugged into a computer.

These new wireless BCIs recharge their batteries wirelessly through induction and transmit data wirelessly, as well. They’ve been used in animals for more than a year without any problems, and human trials are about to start.

From the article, here are the specs:

Brown’s wireless BCI, fashioned out of hermetically sealed titanium, looks a lot like a pacemaker…Inside there’s a li-ion battery, an inductive (wireless) charging loop, a chip that digitizes the signals from your brain, and an antenna for transmitting those neural spikes to a nearby computer. The BCI is connected to a small chip with 100 electrodes protruding from it, which, in this study, was embedded in the somatosensory cortex or motor cortex. These 100 electrodes produce a lot of data, which the BCI transmits at 24Mbps over the 3.2 and 3.8GHz bands to a receiver that is one meter away.

And while the current use of the technology is proscribed, it’s not too big a step after that where we get full-fledged computer implanted in our noggins.

Okay, it’s kind of a big step. But it’s still just a step.

And I for one look forward to the day that I Tweet straight from my skull. But just so people from the future will stop calling me quaint and silly.