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Summary:

A $300 board being offered on Kickstarter aims to make it easier for individuals to tackle some very sci-fi projects.

OpenBCI
photo: OpenBCI

Controlling an object with your mind might sound sci-fi, but it’s not. Researchers and hobbyists have been converting brainwaves into computer commands for years now for applications like moving a prosthetic limb or piloting a drone.

OpenBCI is a palm-sized board meant to make mind-controlled devices a little less sci-fi and a little more accessible. For a special Kickstarter price of $300, backers can get their hands on a board to measure and process brainwaves and put them into action.

OpenBCI

While it will still require a great deal of expertise to work with, the OpenBCI still looks promising for its size and relative simplicity. When I visited the Noisebridge hackerspace for the first time last year, members told me about M.C. Hawking, a broken down wheelchair they had converted into a mind-controlled robot. Brain waves were recorded with an Arduino, EEG headset and custom and available software.

M.C. Hawking is the perfect example of why a device like this is such a big deal. This isn’t something that only interests scientists stuck away in a lab at a university. Hackers and hobbyists want to play with brain-computer interfaces too, and they’re not about to wait for the field to mature before they dive in. The OpenBCI is one of a growing number of devices that will help them leapfrog existing barriers to entry.

One annoyance with the OpenBCI design being offered on Kickstarter is you still have to glue electrodes to your head. OpenBCI is also pursuing an interesting alternative though: 3D printed headsets that cling to the wearer’s head. Along with size, the placement of electrodes can be customized–similar to how alternatives like the EPOC work.

OpenBCI

OpenBCI is not the first team to pursue a project like this, but its successful Kickstarter campaign is a promising start. Units will begin shipping to backers in March, after which we will hopefully start to see some very cool applications.

This story was updated on August 21, 2014, to correct how Noisebridge controlled the wheelchair.

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  1. This was interesting, and I learned some new things. Thanks for sharing all of this.

  2. Very interesting. I actually didn’t know much about all of this until now. thanks for sharing.

  3. I’m fascinated with this technology, but with mixed feelings. Once we are interacting with our devices using our minds, it will obviate my own search software company (http://srch2.com), among other things!

  4. I’m afraid some of your information is incorrect. The ancient EEG at Noisebridge was not used to control the McHawking wheelchair robot. That was done using an Emotiv EPOC. The full write-up from 2010 is available online – http://www.instructables.com/id/Brain-Controlled-Wheelchair/

    The McHawking robot also now resides at Sudo Room in Oakland, where the latest Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) is taking place.

  5. Can anybody help me?
    Problem: When we do program in matlab using some data-set of BCI Competition , the BCI Competition IV dataset IIb, we have to carry out something called traing and testing. but my problem is we can train the classifier by data having label but, during testing we need to include evaluation file where there is no label that which Motor Imagery is what?

    Please help ..
    Mail me in bitopandas.cse10@gmail.com .
    Bitopan Das, Tezpur University, India

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