Using brainwaves to control technology through wearables

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Wearable technology can not only be applied to sensory and gesture control, voice recognition, augmented reality, health monitoring, biometrics, and infotainment, but vendors today have also developed brainwave sensing wearable devices that give users the ability to use "thoughts" to "control" different equipment.

Amazing wearable from Toronto, Canada

During his speech "Wearable technology - Changing the way you THINK" Derek Luke, COO of Canada-based InteraXon, introduced the background of InteraXon, a leading company in developing brainwave technology. InteraXon's development team began conducting EEG related research in 2003 prior to the establishment of the company. The team attempted to produce changes in the surrounding environment with brainwaves, and create compelling life experiences. InteraXon was formally established in 2009, and revealed itself for the first time at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, where the crowd wore brainwave controllers and used their thoughts to control the lights on Niagara Falls, the Canadian Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, and the Toronto CN Tower.

Later, InteraXon invested in the development of a thin and light brainwave headband called "Muse." When the prototype appeared in 2011, the CEO of InteraXon, Ariel Garten, unveiled her company's development technology in a TED Talk using "know thyself, with a brain scanner" as the theme. In 2013, InteraXon received first-round financing from Sir Ka-shing Li's private investment firm, Horizons Ventures, and officially introduced Muse in 2014.

Multiple sensors to get a feel for what you're thinking

Derek described some previous applications of his company's product, including mind control of lights on a stage and "telepathically"turning on a beer tap to fill a beer mug hands-free. He indicated that EEG (electroencephalography) has actually been in use in the field of medicine for many years, mainly for purposes such as improving sleep quality and concentration. However, EEG use in medical care requires a lot of sensors attached to the head. Not only is it inconvenient, heavy, and unpleasant, but it also is very costly. actiCHamp, for example, is priced at about US$36,000.

The Muse EEG brain sensing headband produced by Derek's company comes in two choices of black or white. It is easy to wear, light-weight, and fashionable. With its non-invasive design, it is comfortable to wear on the head. Most of all, it is affordably priced at US$299. Derek then put on the Muse headband for the audience to see for themselves and demonstrated the use of its companion smartphone app. The first step after Muse is put on is calibration (this allows the Muse headband to sense your brainwaves and to adjust the fit to the head); the second step is to relax and let the app guide you on sensing your brain activity; the third step is gathering data which is then relayed to you. It is that simple to use!

The Muse brain sensing headband, with seven built-in sensors (five on the forehead and two behind the ears), detects and measures brain activity when it is put on the head and converts the measurements into instant data for the user to see on a mobile device via Bluetooth technology so that the user can understand how his/her own brain is functioning. After a long period of training and recording, Muse will help people better understand their own mind activities so as to relieve stress and improve memory and concentration. People are therefore able to analyze what makes them excited and what makes them focused, which can help users eliminate negative feelings. In the future the user will eventually be able to control various devices through a focused mind.

Training your mind to focus and control everything

Technology products are interactive (i.e. users interact outwardly with the device) while brainwave detection and scanning technology is intraactive (i.e. users interact inwardly with the device). Muse allows you and the product to develop a responsive relationship by scanning and analyzing your brainwaves. Through cycles of iterative intraactions, you are able to use this information to better understand your inner self and show this understanding in the outer world. While smartbands can be used to promote physical health, the Muse headband can be used to promote mental well-being.

InteraXon brings together user experience specialists, integrated software/hardware technologies, and a brainwave algorithm database to help the user build his/her own dedicated brainwave model and provide an open platform for brainwave applications. InteraXon currently owns a portfolio of 18+ patents and has developed a wearable sensing headband that combines comfort and fashion. In addition, Muse leads the brainwave detection industry in building a complete ecosystem by joining together the world's most prestigious brainwave researchers, cutting-edge sensor development teams, machine learning based on cloud computing, growing network platform developers, added-value investors, and technical partners to collaboratively promote EEG applications to the consumer market.

Derek mentioned that the current hardware spec is applicable to fields including Calm, ADHD, health, and gaming, creating a market value as high as US$30 billion. Calm, an app developed by Derek's company, can be used to train oneself to stay calm using the application for just three minutes a day by monitoring one's brainwaves for the purpose of managing emotions.

In terms of applications related to ADHD, developers can design games that improve concentration to teach hyper-active children to stay focused, which may attain the same effect as taking Ritalin. For health applications, Muse can be used with a heart rate indicator in addition to mind training to effectively monitor exercise as well as mental and physical health. As for the gaming market, Muse can be used to enhance the gaming experience, offering new entertainment experiences.

Derek concluded his presentation by pointing out that the only limitation to InteraXon's high tech potential is imagination. The company is seeking forward-thinking partners from all fields to jointly develop innovative solutions to help people overcome physical, mental, and emotional barriers for a more colorful and meaningful life.

Derek Luke, COO of Canada-based InteraXon

Derek Luke, COO of Canada-based InteraXon