Fourth Industrial Revolution

Researchers have managed to connect a human brain to the internet

Delegates hold up mobile devices during the Bilbao Web Summit in the Palacio Euskalduna May 17, 2011. Event organizer Xabier Uribe-Etxebarria, CEO of the Anboto Group, asked visitors to illuminate the auditorium with their mobile phones and tablet computers as a "present" to World Wide Web founder Tim Berners-Lee, a guest speaker at the two day event which includes a meeting of the W3C Advisory Committee. REUTERS/Vincent West (SPAIN - Tags: SCI TECH BUSINESS) - GM1E75I0FBT01

Researchers from Wits University have found a way of connecting the human brain to the internet in real time. Image: REUTERS/Vincent West

Patrick Caughill
Associate Editor, Futurism
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Fourth Industrial Revolution

In brief

Researchers from Wits University have linked a brain directly to the internet. Data gathered from this project could help fuel the next steps in machine learning and brain-computer interfaces.

Brain meets IOT

A team of researchers at Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa have made a major breakthrough in the field of biomedical engineering. According to a release published on Medical Express, for the first time ever, researchers have devised a way of connecting the human brain to the internet in real time. It’s been dubbed the “Brainternet” project, and it essentially turns the brain “…into an Internet of Things (IoT) node on the World Wide Web.”

Have you read?

The project works by taking brainwave EEG signals gathered by an Emotiv EEG device connected to the user’s head. The signals are then transmitted to a low cost Raspberry Pi computer, which live streams the data to an application programming interface and displays the data on an open website where anyone can view the activity. Adam Pantanowitz, a lecturer in the Wits School of Electrical and Information Engineering and the project’s supervisor, said:

Brainternet is a new frontier in brain-computer interface systems. There is a lack of easily understood data about how a human brain works and processes information. Brainternet seeks to simplify a person’s understanding of their own brain and the brains of others. It does this through continuous monitoring of brain activity as well as enabling some interactivity.

Intellectual muscle

Pantanowitz said this is just the beginning of the possibilities of the project. He adds that the team is now aiming to allow for a more interactive experience between the user and their brain. Some of this functionality has already been built into the site, but it is very narrow — limited to stimulus such as arm movement. “Brainternet can be further improved to classify recordings through a smart phone app that will provide data for a machine-learning algorithm. In future, there could be information transferred in both directions – inputs and outputs to the brain,” Pantanowitz said.

Future applications for this project could lead to some very exciting breakthroughs in machine learning and brain-computer interfaces like Elon Musk’s Neural Laceand Bryan Johnson’s Kernel. Data collected from this project could lead to a better understanding of how our minds work and how we can take advantage of that knowledge to augment our brain power.

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