Increase in filing patent applications related to control electronic equipment using brainwaves
Controlling electronic equipment by thought was assumed to only be possible in SF movies such as ‘The Matrix’ and ‘Robocop’. However, in the near future, it seems that such advanced technology will be bringing many changes to our everyday lives by being applied to smart phones, computers and more.
According to the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO), filings of patent applications are increasing in relation to Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) technologies and Brain-machine interfaces (BMI)* technologies which involve controlling computers or machines by connecting the human brain to a computer or machine by wire or wirelessly and detecting the human’s thought.
* Brain-Machine Interface (BMI) or Brain-Computer Interface (BCI): These technologies connect a human brain to a machine or computer, detect brainwaves (electric signals) which occur from cranial nerves, analyze them, and then control the machine or computer thereby.
The ‘Touch method’, which is the input method generally used nowadays, has limitations in input speed and quantities of orders since this method uses physical movement, whereas BCI/BMI methods are getting attention as future interface technologies due to their merit of being able to handle lots of order data in real time since these technologies analyze real time human brainwaves and control electronic equipment automatically thereby.
According to KIPO’s analysis, domestic patent applications in relation to BCI/BMI technologies were 18 cases per year until 2012; however, these numbers then increased to up to 90 cases per year after 2013.
Domestic and foreign applicants made up 65% and 35%, respectively, among total patent applications (516 cases). Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (15%, 77 cases) was the most prolific of the domestic applicants, while e-Bay (7%, 36 cases) and Immersion Corp. (5%, 25 cases) lead among foreign applicants.
The fields of human brainwave analysis (73%, 374 cases) and brainwave measurement (9%, 47 cases) took the highest percentage among other technologies, and this shows that the success of BCI/BMI technologies depends on how accurately human brainwaves can be measured and analyzed.
BCI/BMI technologies originally started from their use in the medical field in relation to helping with rehabilitation and the treatment of disabled persons. However, due to recent technological advances in the measurement and analysis of human brainwaves, the range of applications being filed is increasing to include areas such as the ‘virtual and augmented reality games’ field (182 cases, 35%)’, ‘interface for medical purposes’ field (120 cases, 23%)’, ‘smart phones, computers and other electronic ‘control devices’ field (66 cases, 13%)’, ‘neuro marketing’ field (49 cases, 10%)’, ‘remote control robots, drones and other industrial’ fields (33 cases, 6%)’, and more. In light of such tendency, it seems that the days of operating smart phones and home appliances by merely thinking is not too far off.
The chief of the Machine System Examination Bureau of KIPO emphasized, “It is anticipated that BCI/BMI technologies, as next generation technologies following on from the current touch input method, will have a great ripple effect on industries overall, including in relation to medical treatment, games, robots, and others. Accordingly, it is important to enhance R&D for the key basic technologies of ‘measuring and analyzing human brainwaves technology’ and securing competitiveness through patenting these key technologies at an early stage”.