The age of brain-computer interfaces is on the horizon

Thomas Oxley is a fan of Black mirror. He can appreciate the show's appeal. He is facing a lot of accusations that he is in charge of the future of mankind.

Oxley is the founder and CEO of Synchron, a company that creates a brain- computer interface. The implant is a means of communication between the mind and the computer.

Black Mirror is so bad. There are episodes of the show that show BCI technology being used in ethically dubious ways, such as to record and replay memories. Oxley is trying to make his company better. The first patient in the US was implanted with Synchron's device. The male patient, who has lost the ability to move and speak because of a progressive disease that affects nerve cells, requested anonymity because he didn't want to promote the device before he had a chance to experience it.

The device promises patients the ability to control the mouse of their personal computer and use it to click. That simple movement could allow them to text their doctor, shop online, or send an email. The digital world has already seeped into every corner of modern human existence, providing all sorts of services—“but to use them, you need to use your fingers,” Oxley says. For the estimated 5.6 million people living with a form of paralysis in the United States, that access isn’t always available. Advertisement

You would be forgiven for thinking the technology is a novel scientific innovation after the media coverage of Neuralink. It's been around for a long time. The Utah array is the only BCI approved by the FDA for testing in a clinical trial. The procedure for implantation involves cutting open the skull. Konrad Kording is a Computational neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania.

He says that the novelty of Synchron's device is that surgeons don't have to cut open your brain, making it much less risky for patients. The device is about the size of aAAA battery and has a mesh-like design. It is placed into a blood vessel in the brain to control movement. When the catheter is removed, it opens up like a flower and nestles itself into the blood vessel's wall. Most neurosurgeons are up to speed on the basic approach required to put it in, which reduces a high risk surgery to a procedure that could send the patient home the same day. The big innovation is that.