The Metaverse or the “Ultimate Form”? Why Musk is so supportive of brain-computer interface technology

Toubao Research Institute released the “2021 China Brain-Computer Interface Platform Industry Overview”.

In the past 2021, with the continuous pursuit of the capital market and the continuous “hot search” impact of various NFT commodities, the term “metaverse” is no longer a strange and fresh concept.

However, there is an important technology leader who is not too impressed by the behavior of all walks of life trying to break through the “metaverse”. Instead, he is not interested in another technology known as the “ultimate form of the metaverse”: “brain-computer interface” More optimistic – he is Elon Musk.

As early as August 2020, Musk invested in the establishment of a company called Neuralink. The main direction of this enterprise is “brain-computer interface”, a technology that sounds more futuristic and sci-fi.

In 2021, Musk will continue to be the platform for brain-computer interface technology. On the one hand, Neuralink raised a $205 million investment in July last year, the largest funding round of any company in the space; on the other hand, Neuralink’s equipment has been used on many pigs and a monkey playing ping pong After a successful trial, the next step will officially enter the stage of human trials.

The Metaverse or the "Ultimate Form"? Why Musk is so supportive of brain-computer interface technology

*The picture comes from the Internet

So, how do you understand the brain-computer interface technology that Musk so admires and affirms? Is it new and different as in the movie “The Matrix”?

Comparing with Western countries, what stage is China’s brain-computer interface technology now, and has it reached a certain level of application in the industry?

In this article, Toubao Research Institute will sort out and interpret the current situation of the brain-computer interface technology industry from the perspectives of concepts, industries, and applications, gain insight into the future development trends of the industry, and discover outstanding industry targets.

What is the “sacred” of brain-computer interface?

Brain-computer interface refers to the direct connection created between the human or animal brain and external devices to realize the exchange of information between the brain and the device. Its workflow includes the acquisition and acquisition of EEG signals, signal processing, signal output and execution, and finally The signal is then fed back to the brain. The brain-computer interface was first proposed at the end of the 20th century, with the purpose of helping the disabled to walk or control the upper limbs. The development of technology has been more applicable to the life and production of normal people.

At present, the medical and health field is the initial and most important application field of brain-computer interface technology, and it is also the application field closest to commercialization. With the development of technology, the application fields continue to expand, and in the future, it will be gradually applied to games and entertainment, learning and education, smart home and military fields. In the process of development, brain-computer interfaces also face many challenges, mainly including extremely low technological maturity, technical complexity caused by cross-disciplinary, difficulty in commercialization and scale, and safety and ethical issues.

Brain-computer interface workflow

In the brain-computer interface workflow, signal acquisition uses sensors, such as EEG caps, to collect brain signals; signal processing includes three steps: signal processing, feature engineering, and classification and regression.

Because the amplitude of the scalp EEG signal is very small, and it is easily interfered by EMG, EMG, ECG, etc., it is necessary to improve its signal-to-noise ratio through signal processing; feature engineering is mainly feature extraction, including time domain, frequency domain, time domain, etc. Frequency domain, Riemann space, etc.; classification regression is to use machine learning algorithm to decode its meaning from scalp EEG; signal output and execution is to send instructions to external devices according to the meaning of brain signals to complete the user’s intention.

The Metaverse or the "Ultimate Form"? Why Musk is so supportive of brain-computer interface technology

Healthcare is the first and most important application area

Applications in various fields, the future can be expected

The medical and health field is the initial and most important application field of brain-computer interface, and it is also the application field closest to commercialization.

The application of brain-computer interface in the medical field mainly focuses on the four functions of “monitoring”, “improvement/recovery”, “replacement” and “enhancement”; the application of brain-computer interface in the field of game entertainment is mainly to provide game players with different In a new operation dimension other than traditional game control, the game is controlled by ideas combined with VR, and an immersive game experience can be obtained; the application of brain-computer interface in the field of learning and education mainly focuses on learning state recognition, attention Level measurement, learning motivation assessment, etc.

At present, brain-computer interface technology is still in the initial application stage in the field of education; the application of brain-computer interface in the field of smart home is concentrated in the “supplement” aspect. By combining with the Internet of Things, the brain-computer interface can be equivalent to a “remote control”. Control the switch of lights, the switch of curtains, etc., and even further control the operation of home robots; the application of brain-computer interface in the military field focuses on “replacement” and “enhancement”, by controlling various drones and robots, instead of soldiers. All kinds of dangerous tasks to reduce casualties.

The Metaverse or the "Ultimate Form"? Why Musk is so supportive of brain-computer interface technology

Brain-computer interface faces many challenges in the development process

The maturity of brain-computer interface technology is extremely low. From the perspective of brain-computer interface technology, the number of neurons in medicine is huge and complex, and the current research on brain feedback stimulation and brain working mechanism is very limited.

In addition, in the process of signal acquisition, the non-invasive interface has the problem of poor signal acquisition, while the invasive interface needs to face the problem of brain damage; at present, the development stage of brain-computer interface is still at the level of laboratory demonstration. There is still a long distance from the real commercialization; at the same time, brain-computer interface technology is a multidisciplinary research field, which involves multiple scientific fields such as information engineering, computer engineering, bioengineering, sports rehabilitation and neurology .

The development of brain-computer interface requires the joint support of the development of multiple disciplines. However, the backwardness of any discipline will cause a short-board effect and restrict the development of brain-computer interface technology. Furthermore, there are many difficulties in non-technical issues of brain-computer interface. , mainly for security and ethical issues, including hacking, mind control, data theft, and even human nature issues, ethical issues, censorship issues, etc. The implementation of the brain-computer interface is bound to be accompanied by the introduction of a series of relevant laws and regulations before it can be applied on a large scale.

The Metaverse or the "Ultimate Form"? Why Musk is so supportive of brain-computer interface technology

China’s research on brain-computer interface technology started late

However, the level of emphasis is on a par with that of Western countries such as the United States.

Although China’s research on brain-computer interface technology started relatively late compared to the United States and other Western countries, it also attaches great importance to the research on its related technologies, especially brain science and brain-like research.

In 2016, China’s “Brain Project” was launched, which mainly includes two directions: brain research oriented to explore the secrets of the brain and overcome brain diseases, and brain-like research oriented to the establishment and development of artificial intelligence technology.

In the “14th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development of the People’s Republic of China and Outline of Vision 2035” proposed in March 2021, it is also proposed that artificial intelligence and brain science are national strategic scientific and technological forces, while brain-computer interface technology is one of the key technologies.

The Metaverse or the "Ultimate Form"? Why Musk is so supportive of brain-computer interface technology

Deep Insights: Development Trends of China’s Brain-Computer Interface Industry

Western countries represented by the United States invested a lot of manpower, financial resources and materials to carry out research on brain-computer interface technology in the early stage. During this period, many industry unicorns, such as Neuralink, Synchron, BrainGate, etc., have also emerged. It is also an ever-increasing technical barrier.

Technical barriers can be divided into talent barriers and core components barriers. On the one hand, brain-computer interface technology is an interdisciplinary subject that requires talents in many fields, including neurology, artificial intelligence, materials science, biology, etc. However, domestic and foreign colleges and universities do not offer professional courses related to brain-computer interface. This has led to the shortage of talents in the field of brain-computer interface; on the other hand, the signal acquisition of brain-computer interface involves various materials and components, as well as the combination of software and hardware such as chip algorithms, and the technical requirements are extremely high.

At present, the core components of the brain-computer interface platform still rely on imports, and its localization level needs to be improved in the future. If China wants to catch up in the field of brain-computer interface, or even overtake on a curve, it should participate in the early stage of the development of the brain-computer interface industry and strengthen the localization rate of core components.

Focus on business

Through in-depth research on China’s digital energy-related industry chain companies, Toubao suggested to focus on BrainCo, Brilliance, and Naolu Technology.

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