OpenBCI, is a project developing an open-source brain-computer interface (BCI), which completed a successful Kickstarter last January, more than doubling its target goal of $100K. The project opens the door to a renaissance in DIY development of brain computer interface applications. The development of thought controlled devices and applications promises to be a larger development than the smartphone or personal computers before them, and will user in a new age of human achievement, arts, and knowledge.
But this is just the beginning, not the end game. The latest design of the OpenBCI board is a fully open-source, multi-purpose neural interface that can sample up to 16 channels of brain activity (EEG), muscle activity (EMG), or heart activity (EKG). The OpenBCI kit can be purchased with an electrode starter kit and comes pre-programmed with open-source software. The board has an Arduino TM-compatible microcontroller, is wireless, and has an onboard accelerometer and micro SD slot. It is ready to be hacked and tinkered with right out of the box. The OpenBCI team is also actively working on a modular, 3D-printable headset that acts as a head mount for the OpenBCI hardware.
“This stuff is not easy,” says OpenBCI co-founder and chief technologist, Joel Murphy. “But we’re working hard to make BCI more accessible by lowering the barrier of entry and opening up the biosensor playing field, making it approachable to anyone.” Making complex tasks easy is in part what catalyzes apparently revolutionary developments. The personal computer gave everyone access to general purpose computation. The smartphone revolution gave everyone easy access to mobile and wireless communications. The neurotechnology revolution will enable applications such as real-time electronic telepathy and drone aided “telekinesis”.
Some of the earliest members of the OpenBCI community have already built amazing projects with the technology. These projects include:
● A combination eye-tracking/EEG device, aimed at assisting patients with ALS, known as The Brainwriter by
Not Impossible Labs, that is currently installed in the Barbican Museum in London
● A mind controlled robot, developed by Chip Audette, via his blog EEG Hacker
● An open-source Node.js web socket that ports brain waves to a web browser in real-time and performs
cloud-based machine learning analytics on the data (by the Cognitive Technology Group at UC Berkeley)
The OpenBCI team believes that the biggest challenges we face in understanding what makes us who we are cannot—and should not—be solved by a single company, institution, or field of science. The team believes that people from a variety of disciplines will make these discoveries through an open forum of shared knowledge and
concerted effort. The OpenBCI mission is to realize the potential of the open-source movement to accelerate innovation in brain science and human understanding.
The Neuro Age will be revolutionary and also potentially shocking as we use technology to directly share thoughts and emotions, uncover the hidden mechanisms of mind, and directly control machines merely by thinking about it.
The open software and hardware approach is critical to the development of BCI and future neurotechnology based interfaces. Consider, do you want to trust Google with your innermost thoughts and feelings? Facebook? Which corporation would you trust to build a safe and trustworthy device that will eventually be an implant or nanobot swarm operating inside your body and brain?
The maker movement, DIY homebrew or “grinder”, and open source revolution are critical enabling philosophies for the Neuro Age.
The OpenBCI team is now gearing up for the end of its Kickstarter life cycle and will begin shipping units at the end of September. Remaining units from OpenBCI’s first production run are now available for pre-order. The standard OpenBCI kit can be reserved for $399.99 with a limited-time-only, pre-order discount. Nearly 1000 OpenBCI units have already been claimed through crowdfunding and pre-orders.
“We’re trying to start an open-source brain wave revolution,” states OpenBCI co-founder, Conor Russomanno. “I like to think of what we’re doing as LEGO meets BCI; we’re providing the neuro building blocks and we can’t wait to see what the world creates with them.”
The kit enables some interesting possibilities for do it yourself and homebrew prosthetics, control of exoskeletons, robots, and drones via thought. Beyond this, OpenBCI will enable UI/UX researchers developing software based cognitive enhancements to begin using EEG signals, which, while not a new idea, was previously expensive and hard to get into for the average app developer. That is no longer the case.
Some other applications of the kit might include systems which respond to emotions or which share emotive states, technology enhanced meditation, medical applications, animal-to-human communication, and much much more.
What will you do with OpenBCI? I can’t wait to see it.
Start here: http://www.openbci.com/