From devices for augmented reality and new forms of entertainment to technology applied to rehabilitation and medicine, here are the projects in the field.
The integration between the most advanced technologies and the human brain is one of the main themes that have always been at the center of science fiction novels and films. With the increasingly massive application of artificial intelligence and other advanced systems in different fields, from the industrial to the artistic, now also the research on possible forms of interaction between machines and the brain (brain-computer interfaces, abbreviated as Bci) seems become a reality for many companies that decide to invest in areas such as neuroscience, the biotechnology and research on neural interfaces.
Among the main actors of this scene is Neuralink, the startup created in 2016 by the visionary founder of Tesla, Elon Musk, who works on the creation of microprocessors to be implanted in users’ skulls and able to receive impulses directly from neurons and transmit them to an external computer connected via wireless. To date, the California company has raised over 158 million dollars in two funding rounds led by Musk himself and aims to create a brain-computer interface capable of finding applications in areas ranging from medical to entertainment.
Born explicitly to develop neural interfaces, Kernel is a company created in 2016 in Los Angeles by Bryan Johnson, former founder of the PayPal division, Braintree. For his research on BCI, Johnson himself has invested in Kernel 100 million dollars and aims to create systems of ” increased intelligence ” and instruments that can also be applied in the medical field for the treatment of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, intervening directly on the brain thanks to technologies more advanced. In 2018 it reported revenues of 2.4 million dollars.
Another leading company in research on communication systems between brain and machine is Neurable, which works on the creation of neural interfaces that allow to control virtual reality systems and augmented reality directly interpreting brain impulses. The company, founded in 2015, has raised 2 million dollars in investment to date and invoiced around 2.5 million dollars a year.
The implementation of brain capacity thanks to the development of computer-brain interfaces is also at the center of research by the Synchron company, a company founded in 2016 and which has raised 10 million dollars from investors such as Neurotechnology Investors and Darpa, the Defense advanced research projects agency of the US Department of Defense, in turn engaged in research on BCI interfaces in the military.
Facebook is also one of the big investments in interfaces between the brain and the computer. In fact, within the Menlo Park company, there is also a division that works on the ambitious plan of a system capable of decoding the impulses of the brain part dedicated to language and translating them into text without users uttering a single word. The project, born in 2017, is carried out by Facebook Reality Labs in collaboration with the University of California.
Pioneering in its research on brain-machine interfaces, the Ctrl-labs startup was founded New York in 2015, and in three different rounds of investments, it has come to collect $ 67 million from companies like Gv, which belongs to the giant Alphabet, and the Alexa Fund of Amazon. In its laboratories, Ctrl-labs works on systems that allow to read the impulses transmitted from the brain to the limbs and translate them into digital information with the electromyography method.
BrainCo, on the other hand, is looking towards an expansion of cerebral possibilities thanks to brain-machine interfaces. Founded in Boston in 2015, the company develops wearable devices that can detect brain activity and transmit them to external devices based on the neurofeedback method. BrainCo closed the last round of investments in 2016, reaching a total of 6 million dollars.
Still, in the medical field, Mindmaze, founded in Lausanne in 2012, is a company that deals with the production of neural interfaces and 3D viewers mainly used for rehabilitation functions. It has raised $ 110 million in different rounds from investors such as the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and Hinduja Group and has an estimated turnover of over 5 million a year.
Among the now historic manufacturers of wearable devices that function as interfaces between brain and computer to monitor brain activity is NeuroSky, a company founded in 2004 in Silicon Valley. Over time this company has received funding from companies such as SoftBank and Saif Partners, and its average revenues are around 6 million dollars a year.
Finally, the company BioBeats has developed between London and Italy, which develops digital products capable of interacting with the human brain and monitoring the progress of waves and brain impulses.
The company has an average turnover estimated at around 3.5 million dollars a year and has raised about 6.6 million dollars. Among its main investors is the Oxford science innovation fund, dedicated to the financing of medical, technological and scientific projects.