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Some of the earliest brain-machine interface technologies simply recorded signals from the brain. More modern BMI technologies are designed as implants that will improve on skills associated with certain brain activities, such as vision, hearing, or other human or animal functions. A range of these devices, called neuroprosthetics, have been developed and are in use around the world as a functional means of assisting human capabilities.

Another type of brain-machine interface that is still theoretical relates to the pursuit and construction of artificial intelligence, where technology is designed to imitate human intelligence. Brain-machine interfaces have been studied as a possible means toward a process called "singularity," which is the highly theoretical creation of technologies that are more intelligent than humans. It’s been suggested that users could "upload" an entire human brain to a theoretical type of brain-machine interface that would completely replicate its function, allowing a human to live on in terms of brain function, without a human body. These and other similar theories continue to drive interest in developing more powerful and sophisticated brain-machine interfaces that can more completely receive a model of high-level human brain activity, or intelligence.

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