In a Brooklyn lab stuffed with 3D printers and a makeshift pickleball court, employees at a brain interface startup called Synchron are working on technology designed to transform daily life for people with paralysis.
The Synchron Switch is implanted through the blood vessels to allow people with no or very limited physical mobility to operate technology such as cursors and smart home devices using their mind. So far, the nascent technology has been used on three patients in the U.S. and four in Australia.
“I’ve seen moments between patient and partner, or patient and spouse, where it’s incredibly joyful and empowering to have regained an ability to be a little bit more independent than before,” Synchron CEO Tom Oxley told CNBC in an interview. “It helps them engage in ways that we take for granted.”
Founded in 2012, Synchron is part of the burgeoning brain-computer interface, or BCI, industry. A BCI is a system that deciphers brain signals and translates them into commands for external technologies. Perhaps the best-known name in the space is Neuralink, thanks to the high profile of founder Elon Musk, who is also the CEO of Tesla, SpaceX and Twitter.
But Musk isn’t the only tech billionaire wagering on the eventual transition of BCI from radical science experiment to flourishing medical business. In December, Synchron announced a $75 million financing round that included funding from the investment firms of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
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