Over the years, I’ve dabbled a bit in the creation of a so-called brain-computer interface (BCI). These systems take various forms, but the basic idea is to use technology to transfer information from the conscious mind of a human into a computer, without channeling it through muscle movements. Humans communicate information from their conscious (and unconscious) minds into the outside world all the time in the form of speech, body language, writing, typing, touchscreen interaction, etc. However, all of these forms of communication rely on the brain’s ability to control muscles to transmit information into the outside world. A BCI uses technology to observe and interpret brain activity directly. When it works, a BCI allows its user to control technology using his/her thoughts!
This semester, I’m delighted to be supervising Ronan Byrne’s final-year project which explores the design of an ultra low-cost EEG-based BCI. Ronan has designed his own EEG amplifier and custom software. He just posted a couple of great videos showing what he’s achieved so far, so I thought I’d share them here.
In this video, Ronan gives an overview of his system. The communication interface isn’t fully functioning yet, but you can see the real-time processing of Ronan’s EEG while he’s recording the video!
His second video shows a really nice take on what is probably the simplest type of EEG-based BCI: modulation of alpha waves by opening and closing the eyes. Ronan’s interface allows the user to give yes/no answers to questions by increasing or decreasing alpha activity (roughly 10-12 Hz) in the occipital lobes (at the back of the head), which can be achieved by opening or closing the eyes.