Ever wondered what it would be like to scroll reddit just by thinking it? Well, if you have, perhaps our old pal Billy G has something in the works for you.
Microsoft co-founder and prolific philanthropist Bill Gates has joined up with Amazon’s Jeff Bezos according to reports to back Synchron, a company building brain implants to help further interface humans with computers.
Human-computer interfacing of today revolves around external peripherals, such as touch screens, Xbox controllers, keyboards, etc. But fear not, government-mandated brain implants are not (yet) in Synchron’s purview. Instead, Synchron’s technology revolves around improving accessibility, for those with limited or impaired mobility.
The report in CNBC describes how Synchron’s “Switch” technology is seamlessly implants via blood vessels, allowing patients to interact with their devices using their thoughts alone. The report says that so far only 7 patients across the United States and Australia have been testing out the tech, and thus far, the results seem to have been promising.
Synchron CEO Tom Oxley said, “I’ve seen moments between patient and partner, or patient and spouse, where it’s incredibly joyful and empowering to have regained an ability to be a little bit more independent than before. It helps them engage in ways that we take for granted.”
Synchron just announced a $75 million dollar funding round that counts Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos venture firms among those offering early investment. Synchron has described its technology as more “scalable” than competitors like Neuralink, developed by Elon Musk’s firm. Synchron’s antenna can be fitted via a stent, which is a commonly-used surgical procedure fitted via arteries and veins.
Competing solutions often require the presence of a full-blown neurosurgeon, whereas Synchron’s technology can be fitted with far more expertise that is far more available. The technology could be revolutionary for patients with ailments like ALS, or full-body paralysis, giving thousands of potential candidates a new lease on life.
The technology is subject to all sorts of conspiracy theories and controversy. Questions over Elon Musk’s own Neuralink paint a dark picture of the science. Musk’s Neuralink is being investigated for animal cruelty, owing to reports of test monkeys being subjected to “extreme suffering.” However, on the Synchron side, respected medical journal JAMA Neurology recently approved the technology, noting that their methodology was entirely safe, and didn’t degrade in quality after a 12-month period.
While technology revolves around accessibility right now, it’s not hard to imagine a future where it could become more commonplace. If it becomes more convenient as current solutions while remaining just as safe, it’s not science fiction to imagine a world where able-bodied humans couldn’t opt-in to this type of tech. If you ignore some of the more dystopic science-fiction, that is.