Tag Archives: Brain-Controlled

Thinking about the future with brain computer interfaces

What’s cooler than controlling the world around you with your mind? Nothing! According to OpenBCI’s Conor Russomanno, this dream is now coming closer to reality with the help of Makers.


As previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, brain-computer interfaces have made great progress as of late, thanks in part to companies like OpenBCI, whose co-founder recently shared his thoughts on the surging BCI movement with MAKE Magazine.

“Though BCI is in an embryonic state — with a definition that evolves by the day — it’s typically a system that enables direct communication between a brain and a computer, and one that will inevitably have a major impact on the future of humanity,” Russomanno writes.

The Maker notes devices from Emotiv, NueroSky, and Not Impossible Labs as being innovate yet he still has a strong desire to further utilize, “Brain-Computer Interface technology to create a comprehensive communication system for patients with ALS and other neurodegenerative disorders, which inhibit motor function and the ability to speak.”


BCIs entail a wide range of technologies which vary in terms of invasiveness, ease-of-use, functionality, cost, and real-world practicality. They include fMRI, cochlear implants, and EEG, Russomanno explains.

He holds a contained excitement for the future of BCI saying, “Each day it gets easier to leverage technology to expand the capabilities of that squishy thing inside our heads. Real-world BCI will be vital in reverse-engineering and further understanding the human brain.”

The OpenBCI co-founder was first introduced to the mind-controlling technology just two and half years ago and is astounded by the growth of the community in that time span. He specifies one catalyst to the prosperity of the movement – Makers! He believes, “While these devices have opened up BCI to innovators, there’s still a huge void waiting to be filled by those of us who like to explore the inner workings of our gadgets.”


Russomanno describes he and his partner Joel Murphy’s creation of OpenBCI as “a powerful, customizable tool that would enable innovators with varied backgrounds and skill levels to collaborate on the countless subchallenges of interfacing the brain and body.” The platform is based upon an Arduino shield prototype and sports an Atmel ATmega328 chip onboard. The design has even evolved to include the world’s first 3D-printed Electroencephalography (EEG) headset.


“In the next 5 to 10 years we will see more widespread use of BCIs, from thought-controlled keyboards and mice to wheelchairs to new-age, immersive video games that respond to biosignals.” the Maker predicts. While some products similar to these have already hit the market, he reveals, “They’re not ready; we still need makers, who’ll hack and build and experiment, to use them to change the world.”

Right on, Conor! The Maker community is always up for a good challenge.


Control magnetic liquid with your mind

While we have featured some brilliant brain-controlled projects before, none may have been as mystifying as the Solaris endeavor from ::vtol::. Gaining inspiration from the swirling scenery of the 2002 film of the same name, this team has developed a system that allows the user to control magnetic liquids with merely their minds.


With the help of an Emotiv Epoc, the team enables a user to control a motorized magnet below a pool of gleaming green liquid. Within the liquid lies a magnetic substance that is purely governed by thought. Just don’t drink that green goo, or you might wake up as a Ninja Turtle!

Once the Epoc reads the wearer’s thoughts, a computer deciphers the focus and strength of the brainwaves, while an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) then translates these levels to the mobile magnet.

The team surveyed various social groups and generations to observe who would maintain the strongest control over the viscous liquid. People who spent a plenty of time with the object managed to influence the dynamic and direction of the liquids on the unconsciousness level, the Makers noted.

The unity between mind and control that the team discovered was intriguing. ::vtol:: writes that the whole experiment “visualizes the temperament of the person. The object copies your mental organization and echoes it on the liquid’s surface. The object becomes a part of the participant.”

Check out the video below to gain some insight into the minds of the team behind the Solaris. Still can’t get enough? Head over to the official Solaris blog to find out more about the inspiration behind this pool of green goo!

Extinguish a flame with your brain

Developed by Alessio Chierico, Trāṭaka is an interactive installation controlled by a brain-computer interface and an Atmel based Arduino.


Derived from the Sanskrit term meaning “to look” or “to gaze,” Trāṭaka is a meditation technique which consists of staring at an external object, generally a black dot or flame. This fixed gazing stimulates the ājňā chakra, a point located in correspondence of the brain. According to the Hindu tradition, this chakra is one of the six main centers of vital energy, and it is considered as the eye of intuition and intellect.

According to the Maker, the installation is composed of a brain-computer interface capable of detecting a user’s brain waves and defining parameters, i.e. the level of attention. While wearing the BCI device, the user is encouraged to concentrate on a flame that is placed before them, with the goal of putting out the fire with incredible focus. In order to conquer this feat, the system detects the wearer’s level of meditation which simultaneously controls an air flow located under the flame — the higher the level, the greater the air flow. The flame will be magically extinguished once the utmost attention is achieved.

Whether it’s controlling robots, navigating a wheelchair or putting out a flame with your mind, this surely won’t be the last megaAVR powered BCI project we come across.

‘Telepathic’ communication achieved for first time

Alright, so maybe it’s not entirely “mental telepathy,” but an international group of researchers is reporting that they have successfully achieved brain-to-brain communication. According to the scientists from the United States, France and Spain, the team has leveraged several technologies, including computers and the Internet, to relay information between test subjects separated by approximately 5,000 miles without carrying out any invasive procedures on the subjects.


Words such as “hola” and “ciao” were telepathically transmitted from a location in India to a location in France using an Internet-connected electroencephalogram (EEG) and robot-assisted and image-guided transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) technologies. When one study participant merely thought of a greeting, the recipient thousands of miles away was aware of the thought occurring, according to the report published in PLOS One.

“We wanted to find out if one could communicate directly between two people by reading out the brain activity from one person and injecting brain activity into the second person, and do so across great physical distances by leveraging existing communication pathways,” revealed Alvaro Pascual-Leone, a Harvard Medical School neurology professor.


Generally speaking, previous studies on EEG-based brain-computer interaction (BCI) have used communication between a human brain and computer. In these studies, electrodes attached to a person’s scalp record electrical currents in the brain as a person realizes an action-thought, such as consciously thinking about moving the arm or leg. The computer then interprets that signal and translates it to a control output, such as a robot or wheelchair, the study explains.

However, in this new study, the research team comprised of Pascual-Leone, Giulio Ruffini and Carles Grau of Starlab Barcelona, Spain and Michel Berg, leading a group from Axilum Robotics in Strasbourg, France added a second human brain on the other end of the system. Four healthy participants, aged 28 to 50, participated in the study.

“One of the four subjects was assigned to the brain-computer interface (BCI) branch and was the sender of the words; the other three were assigned to the computer-brain interface (CBI) branch of the experiments and received the messages and had to understand them.”

By utilizing an electroencephalogram connected to the Internet and transcranial magnetic stimulation, in which electromagnetic induction is used to externally stimulate a brain, the researchers proved that it was possible to communicate information from one human brain to another. In order to facilitate this, a computer translated simplistic words into digital binary code, presented by a series of 1s or 0s. Then, the message was emailed from India to France, and delivered via robot to the receiver, who through non-invasive brain stimulation could see flashes of light in their peripheral vision. The subjects receiving the message did not hear or see the words themselves, but were correctly able to report the flashes of light that corresponded to the message.


“We wanted to find out if one could communicate directly between two people by reading out the brain activity from one person and injecting brain activity into the second person, and do so across great physical distances by leveraging existing communication pathways,” said Pascual-Leone.

This experiment suggests the possibility of supplementing or bypassing the traditional methods of language-based or motor-based communication, and could have a number of applications. “We hope that in the longer term this could radically change the way we communicate with each other,” the researchers concluded.

Over the past several years, there has been a number of studies surrounding brain-controlled activity, where researchers have used these signals to control everything from drones to prosthetics. As we’ve explored on Bits & PiecesAtmel chips (like the ATmega328) have been at the heart of several brain-computer interfacing (BCI) innovations. With the emergence of new technologies and a passionate Maker crowd, we can only imagine the endless possibilities the future holds.

Arduino-powered wheelchair hopes to offer greater mobility

A Maker by the name Philip Case, also known as “Cap,” has set his sights on a project that will make his and a number of others’ lives easier. Philip, who is wheelchair dependent due to an unfortunate accident, is working to further develop his incredibly innovative e-Wheelchair.


Similar to other mind-controlled projects we’ve recently covered on Bits & Piecesthe e-Wheelchair enables chair movement to be controlled solely by a user’s brainwaves. While some wheelchairs exist with this technology, they are very expensive. In true Maker fashion, Cap is seeking to create an Atmel based chair that is both affordable and easy to use for all who would require its services.

Cap’s system features an Arduino Uno R3 (ATmega328), an Arduino Yun (ATmega32u4) as well as a series of breakout boards. The Arduino boards interpret the brainwaves into directional movements for the chair.

For the control system, Cap has implemented the Neurosky Mindwave Mobile and a Mindflex EEG. According to the team at Cooking Hacks, Cap has been able to control forward and reverse on his chair with these tools. Though, in a recent update, steering has been changed to blink detection rather than laser, using Ultrasound for a safety stop in forward and reverse.


Cap also wants to fully utilize the power of the Atmel powered Arduinos, so he is currently looking to install devices that can monitor glucose levels and ECG. This will likely be based around e-Health’s Sensor Platform. In addition, the future build may also incorporate a GSM/GPRS module along with an embedded body position sensor. With his aspirations to provide independence to users, he is exploring the idea of connecting a mobile device to the e-Wheelchair using both Bluetooth and USB.

To stay up to date on Cap’s build, you can follow along on his Cooking Hacks blog.