Brain Interfaces
design blog

of Tomorrow
Brain Interfaces

A brain-computer interface (BCI) is a system that measures the activity of the central nervous system (CNS) and converts it into an artificial output that replaces, restores, enhances, supplements, or improves natural CNS output, and thereby changes the ongoing interactions between the CNS and its external or internal environment. Reference Module in Biomedical Sciences, 2016

The brain interfaces started its journey with the discovery of electrical activity of the human brain back in 1924. In modern history, the brain interfaces are mostly used in medicine for treating psychological and physiological disorders using invasive, semi-invasive and non-invasive methods. Today, some startups, including startups from the big tech companies, are looking for markets introducing the ecosystems of both invasive and non-invasive brain interface devices and software solutions for it. What if this is the future for human interface devices (HIDs)?

On the surface, the brain interfaces have a little difference with any other sensors, like those which are reading the data from a broadcaster, e.g. measuring the human pulse. The brain sensor is entering another domain although, our knowledge about the brain in a whole is yet limited, the efficiency and safeness of the brain interfaces are yet to be uncovered, despite the fact that these experiments are running almost 60 years.

Human and devices

It’s natural for a human being to have devices serving the needs. We start with our body and senses, then extend us to home appliances, instruments and computer accessories. While every individual is looking for own level of complexity in the various contexts, our brain, in general, is looking for simple solutions, even if the solutions are not the most efficient in the long run. The adaptive features of optimising the resources and energy needed for survival often play an unpleasant trick with us, making our current devices and systems less useful.

Designers often deal with human input devices. Each device requires time for mastering to become an integral part of working, it is also true for the end-users’ product. Aside those moments of real-world interviews and tests, the workflow includes activities such as seating, standing, staring, placing hands in a certain way to the point of numbness feeling, not that much of physical activity, right? The brain interfaces potentially may reduce the impact of those physical inactivities by providing more options of how and where to work, specifically, how fast we can manipulate objects and how easy we can input data.

It is important to mention that the brain interfaces can improve and already improving the lives of people with various disabilities

Button intimacy

It seems that the will of control, the behavioural satisfaction and the lever mechanics together brought us to the concept of using buttons to control a particular system. Musical instruments are great examples of such tools. For example, the earliest keyboard musical instrument was found in the third century BC, around 2,312 ago, and called hydraulis (a type of pipe organ). Fast forward to the future in 1847, the boolean algebra made a huge impact on the road of systems control with its logic theory by George Boole. In 1884, John Henry Holmes invented a "quick-break" mechanism preventing electricity systems from the ignition. The radio invention by Heinrich Hertz added to things we can control in 1895. The toggle light switch as we know was invented in 1917 by William J. Newton, 22 years later. And of course, the invention of the graphical user interface by Xerox solidified the computer button mechanics in 1979. The control using buttons, as history shows, is quite a while with us.

In the root, both brain interfaces and buttons share the same concept of systems control, but one element is really making them different. The difference is in intimacy. Most of the HIDs are still away from us, a subject to control, while the brain interface is much more obvious extension of the human, especially semi-invasive and invasive ones. Every human has a different level of intimacy, the simple example of intimacy would be the comfort zone. This, of course, may rely on many factors, however, one of the factors is obvious — as better we know each other as closer we are while communicating. The brain interfaces are going really close to us, exactly to what we think, this certainly the big stone on the road of adoption. Then what will happen when we cheat in the thoughts intentionally, what kind of mind it will be, would it raise methods like Brain Engine Optimisation? The modern history knows several examples of the controversial medium adoption although: the books, the telephone, the headphones, the front-facing camera, the voice control systems. The way we use devices becomes more personal, and the brain interfaces seem to be hitting one more milestone in the direction.


While the button puzzle-like mechanics are pleasing for our brains, constant and extensive use of them may drain a lot of energy from us, as well as the learning curve of using those. The older inventions are an amazing subject to research and learn from and have value in a form of art. The devices also created waste. There is an irony in how we often sorting the waste problem — simply moving further the waste from us. The brain interfaces may dramatically reduce the learning curve, energy drain while working, and, of course, waste by making many devices useless. It’s also obvious, by entering the brain interfaces area, the amount of the countless palettes and buttons in the user interfaces will be drastically reduced, as well as the cost of the software development minimising the effort of both developers and users.

Current non-invasive brain interfaces face lots of challenges in the form of received signals clarity and the ability to filter these signals from many other signals. Hence, it is most likely we’ll find a number of specialised brain interfaces optimised for certain workflows, as the universal devices may be commercially not worth it due to the amount of investment to be made. The beauty of the brain interface is that it may actually change ways we think and communicate, rasing up our heads from the phone screen, and re-shaping the landscape of not only production lines but cities' infrastructure as well. For example, if we’re in a queue to buy tickets to a sudden event we don’t need to do anything but think, the validated intention can be the new button of tomorrow.


The recent VR boom created a ton of new devices. I’m excited about the technology, this is truly a new leap in digital media, yet, the recycling process is somewhat questionable, almost no one tells you to limit the device time use either. Our brains perceiving VR as a reality — it’s totally different from a computer or phone screen or even hologram, and content restrictions should be re-visited, yet, the game industry moving to violent content way too fast. It is easy to sit and theorise on how things are wrong although. The attention paid to HIDs, buttons and energy in the article is intentional. The waste and energy drain of the systems, the old ways of production are raising fair questions.

How can we make sure physical and mental accidents caused by HIDs are minimised? What is the balance between profit, value, safeness and equity? How design can account waste reduction? And then, what is the limit of privacy in the brain interfaces? Can we notify people of potential trade-offs as we do on cigarette packs already, and consider it as a design step?


The brain interfaces are still a long way to be the total replacement of the current HIDs due to the complexity of development, the new product lines will soon hit the mass markets as the first prototypes. I’m looking forward to the emerging brain interfaces technology, as it is potentially may significantly improve the workflows using computer electronics. Imagination draws the picture of the brain interface, the gesture control and the eyes tracking technologies together — a true kapellmeister of the machine, and it is for us to decide how to use it. Scary and exciting, indeed.