Now entering the neurotech era:

What if you could read my mind? What if I could beam what I’m seeing, hearing, and thinking, straight to you, and vice versa? What if an implant could store your memories, augment them, and make you smarter?

Long the stuff of science fiction, technology that can directly tap into, augment, and connect human brains is becoming science fact. And that means big changes for all of us.Consider what we’ve already done – getting data in and out of the human brain:

Hearing – At least 200,000 people alive today use a cochlear implant. A cochlear implant looks like a hearing aid, but it works quite differently. It takes sound waves in the environment and transforms them into nerve impulses to the auditory nerve. In creating it, we’ve tapped into and partially decoded the way the nervous system represents sound.

 Sight – In 2002, researchers restored vision to a blind man by wiring the output from a digital camera directly into the primary visual cortex in his brain. A Matrix-style jack from the camera went straight into his brain, enabling him to see, though both his eyes had long since been destroyed. Now a related technology is on the verge of FDA approval for widespread use in blind patients.

Video Out – Researchers have also shown that by using an fMRI brain scanner, they can reconstruct what a person is seeing, demonstrating that we can get visual data both into and out of the human brain.

Motion – In 2000, a quadriplegic patient named Johnny Ray became the first to receive a brain implant that would allow him to move a cursor by thought. Now, even better versions of the technology are in human trials. Last year, researchers published a video of a paralyzed woman using a robot arm to feed herself chocolate by thinking about it.