think different

This $199 headband can read your mind

August 22, 2013
August 22, 2013

Want to control the electronics around you without having to type, point, gesture or speak?

Having devices react to your thoughts is not purely science fiction.

After a successful Indiegogo fundraising campaign, Toronto-based InteraXon has announced the close of $6 million dollars in a Series A round of investment for Muse, its brainwave-reading headband. The device is expected in late 2013, and you can pre-order it now for $199.

The slim white headband has four sensors to read brain activity—it’s essentially an electroencephalogram (EEG) machine you can carry around with you. The device is able to measure your brain activity and translate it into a binary signal, allowing computer programs to read increases or drops in the level of activity. A spike in concentration can be set to trigger for a particular action. In an existing toy, for example, spikes in activity turn up the speed of a small fan, which propels a foam ball through an obstacle course—a sort of rudimentary telekinesis.  

Learning how to tweak your brainwaves is a process that InteraXon compares to flexing a muscle you never knew existed. Concentrating on something causes a change in your brain activity, and that change can be used as a trigger—to turn a beer tap on and off, for example. When it comes to controlling a computer, options are still limited to a binary: A concentrating brain generally turns things on, and a relaxed brain turns them off. For now, Muse won’t have capabilities too far beyond its older, uglier cousins.

At first, Muse will only have health and wellness apps, programs designed to use readings of your brain activity to help you better understand and control it. Like an increasing number of health and wellness app developers, InteraXon hopes that the collection of personal data—in this case, brain activity—via sensors will allow for personalized care. Playlists based on your mood, breathing exercises tailored to your stress level, and even dating website integration (where users are paired based on their “emotional” response to certain movies or music, based on EEG readings) are in the company’s plans for the immediate future.

The hardware and software involved could eventually be applied to smart home integration and computer interfaces, and InteraXon says it’s dedicated to making that happen within the next decade. We reported earlier on researchers’ success in training people attached to EEGs to move a cursor around a computer screen and pilot a small drone using their thoughts. While there’s progress, InteraXon’s CEO doesn’t think thought-control will be our default method of directing devices for about 25 years.

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