Space & Innovation

Cheap EEG Headset Makes DIY Neurohacking Easy

Research-grade EEG headsets are making it easy for anyone to develop thought-controlled gadgets. Continue reading →

BCI is going DIY.

The brainwave monitoring technology, also known as a brain-computer interface (BCI), previously reserved for research labs and hospital emergency rooms is on the brink of becoming as ubiquitous as bicycle helmets - bolstering the maker movement devoted to brain-controlled gadgets.

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Brooklyn-based OpenBCI, which ran a successful Kickstarter last year to fund their electroencephalogram (EEG) headsets, is now offering pre-orders for their latest version, the UltraCortex Mark IV ($299 to $599), which has 61 electrode holders, reports PopSci.

The equipment is research grade, which means it's sensitive enough to pick up brainwave activity in the motor and visual cortex, has a high data-sampling rate, and has electrodes that adhere to the 10-20 system, which is an internationally recognized pattern for electrode placement.

Why would anyone want their own EEG headset, you ask?

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Lots of reasons. For starters, although tons of research is devoted to studying the brain - including projects recently funded under Obama's Brain Initiative - very little is known about how the organ works. There's an intrinsic curiosity to gather all the data that's available for clues and patterns as to what's going on inside our skulls.

But more immediately, people are harnessing brain waves to develop thought-controlled devices. In research labs, we're already seeing the development of mind-controlled prosthetic arms and legs.

In the DIY world, everyone from artists to so-called neurohackers are finding ways to turn brainwaves into something creative. A few examples from the PopSci article include: turning brain waves into music, using them to control the arm of another person, using them to control a smartphone with facial ticks.

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People have been known to use brains to control robots and avatars, too, and to communicate with each other over the Internet.

DIYers like OpenBCI, too, because the "open" stands for "open-source," meaning anyone can modify the headset to their needs and access the raw data collected from the electrodes.

The raw data can be uploaded to platforms like Cloudbrain, another open-source resource that gives neurohackers a place to store, analyze and visualize their data.

When all is said and done, I guess you could say that brain-computer interfaces are making headway.

If we can think it, we can control it.