The Technical University of Denmark has put together a portable EEG system consisting of a low-cost scalp monitor and a smartphone app. It’s not the biggest technical breakthrough, but I find it comforting to see these pocket computers, more powerful than our PCs were a few years ago, being used for something other than social media and finding the nearest Starbucks.
The team at milab, part of the Cognitive Systems Section at DTU, is focused on “mobile context awareness, media modeling, and user experiences.” So it’s natural that they’d want to put together something like a handheld EEG unit. It’s really a fairly straightforward system: a commercially available Emotiv headset is connected to a wireless USB receiver, which is in turn attached to a Nokia N900.
The data from the EEG (live gross activity data from the regions around the contacts) is instantly decrypted by the phone and converted into an 3D OpenGL-based animation. Total time from reading to display is around 150ms. This allows for quick, on-site monitoring without the need to wheel around a station or set up a laptop. Easy deployment and natural settings are very important for psychological experiments, and I know for a fact that having one of the full-on, gel-enhanced, wires-everywhere EEG caps on kind of interferes with your normal thought processes.
It can decode brain states enough, it seems, to perform some rudimentary actions like scrolling through galleries or opening and closing apps. The greatest thing, though, is the new style of meeting they seem to have invented:
It reminds me of the meetings conducted by the big blue guys in Fantastic Planet. Will we be required to wear these in the future at AOL? Will we be shocked into submission if we don’t maintain proper alpha frequencies during HR lectures? Mercy!