China working on standard for brain-computer interfaces

This is more than a thought bubble: Beijing aspires to dominate international standards

China's government wants to develop a standard for brain-computer interfaces.

News of the effort emerged yesterday when the nation's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology posted a plan to establish a technical committee charged with doing the job.

An accompanying document explains that the committee will be asked to devise input and output interfaces, and research topics including brain information encoding and decoding, data communication, and data visualization.

Devising a format for brain data is also on the to-do list, as is a focus on acquiring data using electroencephalograms.

Researching and developing interfaces for applications in medicine, health, education, and entertainment is also on the agenda, accompanied by work on ethics and safety.

The committee's members are expected to be drawn from relevant research institutions and government departments.

Once their job is done, China's researchers in this field will be organized into clusters and all will be working to the standards the committee has helped develop.

That last goal makes this committee more than a bureaucratic thought bubble: by setting standards and insisting researchers use it, China can focus its efforts.

Perhaps it can also develop standards before other nations and bring them to international forums.

Beijing has already signaled a desire to lead international standards processes, as doing so nearly always sees its local manufacturers participate in their development and then gain an early-mover advantage. Huawei, for example, last week announced it will prioritize deployment of 5.5G (aka 5G-Advanced), that it has worked on and will bring to market before standards are signed off. And last year, China signaled its intention to become a bigger player in IPv6 standards.

Some of China's efforts to dominate standards processes and the bodies that drive them have flopped, but observers have also warned that standards bodies are susceptible to manipulation in ways that could see China have its domestic standards adopted.

In the field of brain-computer interfaces, China may be starting a little late: the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) already hosts a group dedicated to Neurotechnologies for Brain-Machine Interfacing and in 2020 published a roadmap [PDF] for standards development in the field.

And of course private outfits – most prominently Elon Musk's Neuralink – are already conducting brain-computer interface experiments. If such efforts take off, market presence could easily trump standards. ®

More about


Send us news

Other stories you might like