The next frontier for the tech sector is the human brain. A new breed of neuro-hacker is finding ways to capture and manipulate brainwaves to improve health, with potential to help the severely handicapped.
A number of the innovations were on display at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where computer scientists and biomedical experts showcased ways to tap into and use brain signals.
The "mind control" headband unveiled by startup BrainCo effectively hacks into brain signals with a range of possible applications -- from helping to improve attention spans, to detecting disease, controlling smart home appliances or even a prosthetic device.
The device "translates your brainwaves into electronic signals," said the Boston-based firm's Zenchuan Lei.
At CES, BrainCo demonstrated how a person could use the headband to manipulate a prosthetic hand -- a potential life-changer for those paralyzed or missing limbs.
"These signals can be used to control objects like a prosthetic hand," Lei said. "You can turn the lights on or off just by focusing on that."
The device designed by scientists from Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology employs "neuro feedback," a means of allowing people to control their brain waves for various purposes. It is expected to be sold later this year for less than $150.
Lei suggested the device could also help people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder because "it teaches you to enhance your focus and concentration."
A similar project on display from New York-based OpenBCI (which stands for open-source brain-computer interface) seeks to create a platform for applications of the technology in health care, education or other fields.
OpenBCI uses a 3D-printed helmet which captures brainwaves from various sectors of the brain.
"This can be used to help people with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's disease) or quadriplegics communicate," said OpenBCI chief executive Conor Russomanno.
The technology also offers a potential for so-called "neuro-marketing" which tests new products and services on the basis of sensory and cognitive response.
South Korean startup Looxid Labs unveiled a headset that tracks both brainwaves and eye movements, claiming this provides more accurate insights into the mind.
"No other device that I'm aware of combines these things," said Looxid chief business officer Alex Chang.
With the headset attached to a computer, "you can roll your eyes to scroll the mouse, and click on a button by blinking," Chang said.