China plans standardized brain-computer tech similar to Elon Musk’s Neuralink

Brain-computer interface
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As Elon Musk’s Neuralink seeks people with quadriplegia for a clinical trial of its brain-computer implant, China is working to develop its own similar technology. Bloomberg reports that the country is starting by putting together a committee that will draft standards and guidelines for using such brain-computer interfaces.

China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology recently issued a plan to begin the work. The committee has invited industrial and technical experts from companies, research institutes, universities, and other relevant industries to provide comments to guide the development of these standards.

This is still a new area of technical research, and China’s participation has been largely academic until now. Using brain-computer interfaces, signals from the brain are used to control an external device. For example, it might allow someone to control a robotic limb using thought alone. 

Elon Musk’s Neuralink has already begun clinical trials of its version of the technology. As early as 2022, New York-based Synchron was testing similar technology that allowed a patient to control his iPad using thoughts, even sending text messages just by thinking about it.

Recently, Chinese President Xi Jinping called on China to work harder on domestic innovation. The nation faces strict restrictions on its access to many technologies from Western companies, making it important for China to innovate in strategic technologies currently dominated by other countries.

In another initiative to expand the country’s innovation, China has poured billions of dollars into its semiconductor business. The U.S. has already restricted China’s access to chip technology and is mulling even further sanctions.

China has already experienced some success in developing brain-computer technology, even if its efforts have mostly been limited to university-affiliated research groups. In March, a paralyzed patient reportedly regained some mobility after Tsinghua University implanted such a device in his brain.

China’s new committee hopes to “listen to opinions from all walks of life.” It’s inviting interested parties to offer feedback to the committee, with a deadline of July 30, 2024.

Jeff Butts
Contributing Writer

Jeff Butts has been covering tech news for more than a decade, and his IT experience predates the internet. Yes, he remembers when 9600 baud was “fast.” He especially enjoys covering DIY and Maker topics, along with anything on the bleeding edge of technology.