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Next X-Prize — $10M For a Brain-Computer Interface 175

The first X-Prize was about reaching space. Now, reader destinyland writes "This time it's inner space, as Peter Diamandis holds a workshop at MIT discussing a $10 million X-Prize for building a brain-computer interface. This article includes video of Ray Kurzweil's 36-minute presentation, 'Merging the Human Brain with Its Creations,' and MIT synthetic neuroscientist Ed Boyden also made a presentation, followed by discussion groups about Input/Output, Control, Sensory, and Learning. Besides the ability to communicate by thought, the article argues, a Brain-Computer Interface X Prize 'will reward nothing less than a team that provides vision to the blind, new bodies to disabled people, and perhaps even a geographical 'sixth sense' akin to a GPS iPhone app in the brain.'"
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Next X-Prize — $10M For a Brain-Computer Interface

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  • by pz ( 113803 ) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @01:41PM (#31012314) Journal

    My understanding -- as a complete outsider to the field -- is that a lot of the elements are already there.

    My understanding -- as an insider in the field -- is that you are correct. I work in the field of visual prosthetics. There are Phase II clinical trials underway for visual prostheses based on retinal stimulation, and a handful of researchers, like myself, who are looking at alternate approaches that include a more direct brain interface. To create a crude machine-brain visual interface, you need: (1) a digital imaging device, like a web cam, (2) a means to translate the image into the neural signal, like a wearable computer, (3) a computer-controlled multi-channel stimulator, like are used for cochlear implants, (4) a brain electrode, like are used to treat Parkinson's disease through Deep Brain Stimulation, or are used on the cortical surface to treat epilepsy. The parts are all there; it's really just a matter of integration, optimization, and getting FDA approval to try it in blind volunteers.

  • Actual information (Score:5, Informative)

    by Stone Rhino ( 532581 ) <mparke&gmail,com> on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @01:46PM (#31012390) Homepage Journal
    The article linked is spammy and terrible. For the actual information, see the newsitem on the xprize site [] or the linked details []. Basically, there is no prize yet but they had a workshop to begin working out A. Rules for a prize and B. What is achievable. The actual prize would be announced in about 8-14 months.
  • by pz ( 113803 ) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @02:11PM (#31012714) Journal

    It also might not take millions of dollars to do. This could potentially be solved by someone in their garage.

    No, that's just not the case. It will take millions of dollars and lots of equipment and infrastructure. We're not talking about technology, we're talking about biology. There are already hundreds if not thousands of people working on the problem (I'm among them). The limiting factors are not the power of our computers, or the whizziness of our mechanical machines, but the understanding of (a) how we can make permanent high-fidelity implants in the brain that do not pose an undue risk to the health of the patient, (b) what, exactly, the language for communicating through these implants is. While the last 100 years has seen tremendous, fantastic progress in understanding the brain, we are still pretty much in the dark as to the fine details, and it's the fine details that matter for a machine-brain interface. Fortunately, recent technological advances (two photon microscopy coupled with ultra-high resolution 3d tissue reconstruction) are going to give us a huge push toward understanding the details in the next few years.

    Like I said, I work in the field. To do a very small -- SMALL -- experiment with only half a dozen volunteers who will have a temporary brain implant for two weeks, the non-recoverable costs are about $500,000. That's just for the hospital stays, the costs of the operating room, and paying support staff and the like, and assumes that the surgeon's time is donated, along with all of the important hardware. Remember, this is actually brain surgery. And yes, I have that cost baked into my budget.

  • Re:It's already done (Score:3, Informative)

    by mhajicek ( 1582795 ) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @02:15PM (#31012772)
    From TFA it looks like they haven't set the goals yet.
  • by vix86 ( 592763 ) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @03:10PM (#31013518)
    I suppose this might fit in with your (a) but...

    I read a BCI panel report put together by Theodore Berger some 3 years ago and the one thing I took away from the report was that the problem with BCI right now (for invasive implants) isn't the matter of "Where to put the implant" and "How to communicate," but a problem with keeping it permanently there. I hadn't realized prior to reading that report that the body was actually the number one "enemy" in any kind of long term study involving invasive implants. At the time that panel report was published (2007), the longest running implant had been just about a year. There were still a lot of open questions as well as to what was causing the implants to eventually fail.

    Unless the implant tech has improved in the last 3 three years; it seems to me the biggest hurdle will be getting implants that can last longer than a year.

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