Prototype earbuds could create a brain-machine interface without attaching bulky electrodes to the user
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Spotted: While companies like Neurolink focus on creating a human-computer interface using electrodes placed on (or in) the scalp, French startup Wisear has developed an alternative. Rather than bulky electrodes that require a clinical environment, Wisear uses earbuds that create a neural interface by detecting electrical signals in the skin of the user’s ear canal. The link can then be used to signal actions like answering the phone, playing music, and more.
Wisearphones consist of tiny electrodes that record bioelectrical activity coming from the user’s brain, eyes, and facial muscles; an amplifier that strengthens the bioelectrical signals to readable levels; and AI algorithms that analyse the signals in real time. The signals that the device detects are produced by movements of the facial muscles and these correspond to different commands on a Bluetooth-linked smartphone, laptop, or VR/AR headset.
The startup closed a funding round early in 2022 and is using the money to further miniaturise the technology and ensure robustness in any environment. Currently, the earbud is in a prototype phase, but the company plans to add increased functionality by adding eye movements next, followed by controls activated solely using brain activity by 2024. Wisear is also exploring the ability to use the electrical signals produced by silently mouthing voice commands.
Springwise has spotted a number of companies and researchers who are working on developing neural interface devices that could also allow those with physical impairments to type with their mind or regain physical functions.
Written By: Lisa Magloff