Experts predict that by 2040, people will control smart devices with their thoughts due to advancements in “smartbrain” technology.
A smartbrain, or Brain-Machine Interface (BMI), is a wearable or implanted device that directly links the human brain to smart devices like phones, computers, and robotic limbs.
It would allow people to navigate the internet, send texts, and adjust thermostats by merely thinking, blurring boundaries between humans and machines.
University of New South Wales (UNSW) biomedical engineering expert Mohit Shivdasani said scientists are “very close” to mind-controlled devices becoming an everyday reality rather than a science-fiction concept.
“We’re not far off from seeing someone walking around with a brain-machine interface outside of a lab,” he said.
“We have computers all around us. They are in our pockets and travelling everywhere we go, but to think of integrating that directly with the brain to use the technology … it’s pretty amazing.”
He said disabled people would particularly benefit from mind-controlled devices after a successful test on two paralysed people.
“One particular [paralysed] person was able to control a robotic arm just by thinking about it, while another person was able to move a cursor on a computer screen and read his email,” he said.
He explained that the technology worked by unblocking signals from the brain to the limbs.
“There are situations where the brain can send signals, but those signals can’t get to limbs for the person to be able to then walk for themselves. So what a brain-machine interface would do is read those thoughts and convert those thoughts to an action,” he said.
Further, he is improving smart brain bionic eyes for blind people and devices for chronic pain and inflammatory bowel disease.
He believes using smartbrains widely can significantly help people with different issues affecting their quality of life.
“I’ve had a lot of chats with blind patients. When you ask them what they want from a bionic eye, they’ll say: ‘I want to see my family,’” he explained.
“I remember one conversation with a lady, and she said: ‘I would love to be able to see the Target sign again, because when I go into the shopping centre, I want to be able to find Target really easily.”
“As an engineer, I would never have thought about that, but that could be so important.”