Brain Computer Interface (BCI) is a technology that enables collaboration between the human brain and a device that makes possible for signals from the brain to control an object such as a prosthetic limb. BCI technology can be put to multiple uses including communicating, accessing computers, controlling devices, etc. BCI has the potential to control everything that computers can. BCI technology is useful in areas like healthcare, entertainment and gaming, communications and smart home control. Instances of BCI application include as a rehabilitation device for stroke patients to re-gain motor skills and as a prosthetic device that compensates for lost motor skills. BCI technology finds great use in understanding the progression of healing in mentally challenged patients with diminished cognitive abilities. In fact, neuroprosthetics and neuroanalysis form a major component of BCI’s commercial applications.
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Drawbacks of the current BCI systems include difficulty in usage, high cost of equipment, and time-consuming set-up. Ongoing research and development is likely to introduce new BCI systems that will be faster, cheaper, and more reliable that the present ones. Shortage of skilled people who can operate the complex machines is another inhibitor to growth.
BCI products can be split into invasive, partially invasive and non-invasive. A majority of the non-invasive systems include the use of electrodes that are secured on the scalp with the help of a cap. They require the application of a conductive gel that needs to be wiped or washed out of the hair after use. Nov-invasive techniques are highly preferred due to obvious benefits like low risk, ease of use, minimal scarring and discomfort. Invasive BCI systems necessitate surgical insertion of electrodes on or near the brain’s surface. These are of most use in the neuroprosthetics segment. The electrodes, in all BCI systems, are connected to a computer which uses software to translate brain signals into computer commands.
Current Market Scenario
Healthcare made up more than half of the BCI market share in 2014 led by significant research in patients suffering from Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, paralysis and epilepsy. BCI also fulfils the cognitive needs of the healthy and geriatric segments. Non-invasive techniques accounted for the largest share of the global BCI market in 2014. The high popularity of virtual gaming and high penetration of BCI technology in North America has led to that region holding the largest market share of the global BCI market. European Commission has funded a couple of projects like Tremor, Tobi, MindWalker, Decoder, etc., most focusing on non-invasive BCI systems leading to increased market potential.
Rising neurodegenerative diseases and target disorders, mounting research in healthcare technology and higher demand for virtual gaming will be the key drivers of demand for BCI in the coming years. The near future is expected to witness the introduction of more sophisticated, miniaturized devices as a result of higher computing power and other technological advancements. The growing use of dry electrodes and high frequency based BCI paradigms will drive the demand for non-invasive interface recording that uses EEG. Research organizations enjoy government support in the form of investments, funds, and grants. Research agencies and governments collaborate with market operators who sponsor product trials and support necessary research and developmental activities. Higher provision of funds for military R&D by US Department of Defense is likely to promote segment growth with applications such as advanced communication systems like ‘Silent Talk’ and mobile robots functioning as weapon equipped drones during war. Also, communication and control along with gaming will see introduction of varied BCI products. Increased R&D spending in Europe on various BCI projects will propel growth in that region. India, China and Japan will drive growth in the Asia Pacific market. Current dominant players in the global BCI market include Compumedics Ltd., Emotive Corp, iWinks, InteraXon, Puzzlebox, NeuroSky, Brain Products GmbH, Neuroelectrics, Guger Technologies OG, Mind Solutions Corp., InteraXon and Natus Medical.
Information Source: Grand View Research