China to ramp up brain chip program after teaching monkey to control robot

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China has created a committee to steer the nation’s development of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) with the hope of becoming the global leader in brain chip technology. 

The committee will reportedly develop nationwide standards for development in order to compete with western technology outfits such as Elon Musk’s Neuralink.

Brain-computer interfaces

The term “brain-computer interface” (BCI) was coined in the early 1970s. A BCI refers to any device that translates the brain’s signals into language that can be interpreted by a computer.

Over the last 50 years scientists and engineers have used them to study the human brain and to develop methods to treat various neurological conditions. Experimentally, BCI’s have shown promise in the treatment of conditions such as epilepsy or in their capacity to improve the quality of life for people with conditions such as locked-in syndrome or paralysis.

Recently, BCIs have made headlines as Billionaire mogul Elon Musk founded Neuralink in 2016 and promised to bring the technology to the general public.

Neuralink’s BCI technology involves an invasive surgical procedure to implant the device inside of the user’s skull. As Cointelegraph reported, a Neuralink device was successfully implanted in a human brain on Jan 28, 2024.

Related: Elon Musk’s first brain chip patient plays online chess with his mind

China’s ambitions

According to reports, not only does China want to become a global leader in the development of BCIs, but it also wants to use them for the purpose of cognitive enhancement.

Exactly what this means remains to be seen, but a report from Wired called one such Chinese experiment “controversial” over claims a device similar to Musk’s Neuralink would enable “enhanced cognition.”

Per Wired:

“At a tech forum in Beijing … a Chinese company unveiled a ‘homegrown’ brain-computer interface that allowed a monkey to seemingly control a robotic arm just by thinking about it.”

Back on the western side, Neuralink recently postponed a scheduled operation to implant a device in a second patient’s brain over medical concerns.

Meanwhile Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta is working on a non-invasive BCI that would rely on wearable technology to translate nerve impulses into language that can be used to operate the operating system for a holographic display device.