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A brain-computer interface (BCI) is a technology that allows communication between a human or animal brain and an external technology. This term can refer to an interface that takes signals from the brain to an external piece of hardware, or a technology that sends signals to the brain. Various different brain-computer interface technologies have been developed at different times, through different methods and for diverse purposes, including in virtual reality technology.
A brain-computer interface may also be known as a brain-machine interface, a direct neural interface or a mind-machine interface.
Some of the earliest brain-computer interface technologies simply recorded signals from the brain. More modern BCI technologies are designed as implants that will improve on skills associated with certain brain activities, such as vision, hearing or other human or animal functions. A range of these devices, called neuroprosthetics, have been developed and are in use around the world as a functional means of assisting human capabilities.
Another type of brain-computer interface that is still theoretical relates to the pursuit and construction of artificial intelligence, where technology is designed to imitate human intelligence. Brain-computer interfaces have been studied as a possible means toward a process called "the singularity," which is the theoretical creation of technologies that are more intelligent than humans. It has been suggested that users could "upload" an entire human brain to a theoretical type of brain-computer interface that would completely replicate its function, allowing a human to live on in terms of brain function, without a human body. These and other similar theories continue to drive interest in developing more powerful and sophisticated brain-computer interfaces that can more completely receive a model of high-level human brain activity or intelligence.