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Economic Watch: China accelerates industrial development of brain-machine interface

Source:Xinhua 2024-05-10

BEIJING, May 10 (Xinhua) -- A monkey with soft electrode filaments implanted in its brain, controlled an isolated robotic arm and grasped a strawberry by simply using its "thoughts."

This innovative achievement in the application of China's brain-machine interface (BMI) technology was unveiled at the 2024 Zhongguancun Forum (ZGC Forum) held in Beijing late last month.

The NeuCyber Array BMI System, which was independently developed by Chinese scientists, fills the gap in high-performance invasive BMI technology in China, said Luo Minmin, director of the Chinese Institute for Brain Research, Beijing, which co-developed the system with NeuCyber NeuroTech (Beijing) Co., Ltd.

With the continuous development of technologies such as neuroscience, computational electronics and medicine over the years, BMI, as a frontier technology of human-computer interaction, has been a major force leading a new round of scientific and technological revolution and industrial change.

The innovative progress of multi-disciplines and technologies is accelerating the landing of the BMI industry, and China is becoming not only a major innovation hub but also a target market for BMI technology, according to experts who joined the ZGC Forum.

Currently, BMI technology innovation has been used in about 40 countries and regions, with nearly 80 percent of the results emerging in the past decade, said Gu Xiaosong, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering.

China is among the countries with the largest number of BMI scientific research projects, with a large scale and fast growth of scientific research output, and its invention patent applications involving BMI account for more than half of the global total, according to Gu.

"In the past 20 years, BMI technology has developed rapidly, and its application fields are gradually expanding," said Zhao Jizong, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Mainly used in the medical field at this stage, BMI technology can bring new solutions for the diagnosis and treatment of nervous system conditions, such as epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, depression, paralysis, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, sleep disorders, and autism.

Industry insiders believe that BMI technology innovation, rich clinical resources and huge demand for brain disease treatment are the advantages to drive the development of China's BMI industry.

Professor Hong Bo at Tsinghua University said China needs to seize the opportunity by improving the strategic layout and accelerating the innovation of BMI technology to promote the industrial development.

The widespread use of BMI technology means a huge potential market. According to McKinsey & Company, in the medical field alone, the potential global market size of the BMI industry is expected to hit 40 billion U.S. dollars between 2030 and 2040. In addition, BMI has great potential in markets such as healthcare and entertainment.

"BMI technology has broad development prospects and huge market potential in many sectors, and is a typical representative of the future industries," said Jiang Juncheng, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Economy and Information Technology.

As a rising sci-tech innovation hub in the globe, Beijing, which is strong in the R&D of BMI, has made major breakthroughs in recent years in the analysis of brain cognitive principles and major disease research, with the influence and scale of BMI industry playing a leading role in China.

Beijing has recently charted a roadmap for accelerating the development of BMI industry. By 2026, it will achieve breakthroughs in core technologies of BMI and cultivate a number of leading enterprises. By 2030, with an independently well-developed technology system of BMI, hundreds of small and medium-sized enterprises involving the industry will be nurtured in the capital city, forming an industrial cluster.

According to the plan, Beijing will strengthen the integrated innovation of key technologies, enrich the supply of BMI products and build a coordinated development of industrial ecology. It will promote the demonstration application of BMI in five fields, namely medicine, healthcare, industrial safety, education and sports, and smart life. 

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