Elon Musk recently revealed the successful implantation of Neuralink’s brain chip, named Telepathy, in a human subject. The FDA-approved trial is a significant step forward in enabling individuals with severe physical disabilities to control devices through their thoughts. The patient, undergoing the implant for movement control, is reportedly recovering well, showing promising initial results. This development not only highlights the potential breakthroughs in neurotechnology but also emphasizes the increasing interest in brain-machine interface (BMI) research within corporate sectors.
What is brain-machine interface?
Brain-machine interface, also known as brain-computer interface, is a device that translates neuronal information into commands capable of controlling external software or hardware, such as computers or robotic arms. Often utilized as assisted living devices for individuals with motor or sensory impairments, BMI allows direct communication between the brain and external devices without the need for traditional channels like muscles and nerves.
The purpose of BMI is to detect and quantify features of brain signals indicating the user’s intentions and translate them in real-time into device commands. This involves four sequential components: signal acquisition, feature extraction, feature translation, and device output, all controlled by an operating protocol tailored to the user’s needs.
Various companies are already implementing this technology in the medical industry.
Musk’s Neuralink, founded in 2016, has been a pioneer in BMI advancements, securing regulatory approval for human trials in May 2023. The company’s innovation landscape, analyzed by the Technology Foresights platform, a proprietary framework developed by GlobalData, features developments such as precision surgical robots, predictive EEG analysis, and neural activity monitoring. With over $540 million in funding across five rounds, Neuralink has garnered investments from prominent figures including Sam Altman, Google Ventures, and Elon Musk himself.
Interests bloom in the possibilities of brain-machine interface
While BMI technology is still in its early stages, there has been a consistent rise in innovative activities among universities, start-ups, and large corporates since 2019. The Technology Foresights platform indicates a substantial surge in patent publications related to BMI, with over 40% focusing on healthcare applications. In 2023 alone, fifteen new companies entered the BMI patent application landscape, reflecting the growing interest in this field.
Synchron, an Australia-based start-up, is making significant strides in BMI innovation with its neural interface solution named COMMAND, targeting neuro-therapies and innovations in neural activity monitoring and EEG analysis.
BMI startup Neurable develops enhanced headphones utilizing advanced data analysis to enhance users’ productivity by auto-muting notifications, activating noise canceling, tracking focus periods, and recommending personalized playlists.
Sourabh Nyalkalkar, Practice Head of Innovation Products at GlobalData, believes that developments in neuro-therapies and human-AI collaboration through BMI application will have vast potential with a long-term impact. “The innovation landscape of BMI is particularly dominated by technology-led companies such as chip makers, wearable producers, and several niche start-ups, notably backed by corporate venturing arms, such as Neuralink, Synchron, Paradromics, and others. The heightened activity among start-ups and universities, coupled with the increasing number of companies engaging in innovation within this domain, signals heightened competition in the foreseeable future”, he added.
As per Allied Market Research, the global brain-computer interface market reached an estimated value of $1.48 billion in 2020, with projections to reach $5.46 billion by 2030, at a CAGR of 13.9% from 2021 to 2030. Factors such as advancements in human-machine sensing, the application of BCI in entertainment, gaming, communication & control, and increased utilization in the healthcare sector contribute to the market’s growth. Research efforts targeting remedies for severe brain disorders and injuries are poised to further elevate the market.
As competition for brain-machine interface dominance intensifies, collaborative efforts between technology giants and innovative startups are expected to accelerate in the near future. The heightened activity in this domain signals a promising era for advancements in neurotechnology and human-AI collaboration through BMI applications.