Fudan University unveils self-developed remote BCI chip
Published: Apr 18, 2021 11:33 AM

An experiment mouse

An experiment mouse

China's Fudan University revealed its first self-made remote brain-computer interface (BCI) chip for animals, which is on display at the China (Shanghai) International Technology Fair. 

The research team plans to put the chip into commercial use in September, reported. 

"Most BCI chips in the current market are wired, but our remote chip can detect the brain signals of experimental animals when they are moving freely," said Ye Dawei, a member of the research and development team. He noted that there are no similar products in the domestic market, and it costs about 300,000 yuan ($46,000) to 400,000 yuan to import.

The weight of the chip is less than 3 grams, including 1 gram for a button battery. The power of the chip, at less than 3 milliwatts, allows for the recording of brain signals within a radius of 4 meters over a 24-hour period. The chip can also avoid the impact of animal movement on experimental results.

Ye said that the biggest advantage of the chip is its light weight. "Similar foreign products weigh about 27 grams," said Ye, adding that the chip's low power requirement means batteries can be changed less frequently.

"The launch of a Chinese-made remote BCI chip is a great breakthrough of a 'bottlenecked' technique," Wang Peng, an associate professor at the Gaoling School of Artificial Intelligence at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times on Sunday. 

Current uses of the chip may focus on technological and medical research, and then expand to other sectors and scenarios after the technique is perfected.

BCI chips are a hot research topic worldwide. US technology company Neuralink, founded by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, posted a video recently showing that a 9-year-old monkey can play videogames by BCI equipment developed by the company. 

Wang said that many foreign technology companies including Neuralink entered the BCI research area earlier than their Chinese counterparts. 

"Therefore, their BCI equipment may be used in more sectors and scenarios, and offer a more advanced performance," said Wang. 

However, the self-made remote BCI chip outperformed foreign products in some ways, including the duration times, purity of collected signals and the wireless data sending and receiving functions, as well as the cost of manufacturing, which is half as much, according to the report.

Wang said that the current technology of the international BCI sector is at a primary stage and the cost of using BCI equipment may be an essential factor for scientific and medical institutes. 

"If Chinese-made BCI chips can maintain their price advantage, they may have great competitiveness and commercial value among international rivals," said Wang. 

Fudan University's remote animal BCI chip project was launched in 2016. The prototype chip was finished in 2019 and will be upgraded to the fourth version in September this year, researchers said.