Imagine what you could do if brainwaves produced by your thoughts could be focused to play a game, meditate to reduce stress, improve your memory or have your smartphone dial a number just by thinking it!
And, imagining the endless possibilities for the ways thought-controlled computing technologies will change our lives is exactly what the employees at Toronto-based InteraXon spend their time doing. That’s how they came up with their first product - the Muse brain sensor headband – which will go on sale to the consumer market in mid-2013. The stylish, four-sensor headband connects wirelessly through Bluetooth to specially designed apps on your tablet or smartphone and is so light you won’t even know you’re wearing it.
Muse is a window into your mind that’s designed to be fun. By monitoring the range of brainwave levels from relaxed (alpha) to intensely focused (beta), you can change graphical elements in a beautiful scene. Focus intensely to make the moon eclipse the sun. Relax and the sun comes out of the eclipse. Muse also gives real-time percentages for the alpha and beta waves you’re producing so you always know if you’re relaxed or stressed.
InteraXon CEO, Ariel Garten
As a small start-up, InteraXon has 10 employees but like other tech companies today, developing and launching a new product depends on career mashups. While leading-edge technical skills like computer science, engineering and neuroscience are essential to developing what Muse can do, its success as a profitable product draws from varied employee backgrounds in the arts and humanities.
For example, InteraXon’s anthropologist researches how people will react to a new concept like thought-controlled computing while also exploring practical uses for Muse that people would actually buy like meditation and brain training exercises. But it also has to be comfortable and look cool to wear and that’s where InteraXon’s experts in fashion design play their roles.
Thought-controlled computing is the next frontier in the ever evolving ways we interact with our devices and there are only a handful of companies in North America working on commercializing it the way InteraXon is doing. First we had keyboards and mice, then voice commands, touch screens, Wii-style gesture control and now thought control enters the mix.
Thought-controlled computing relies on brainwaves – the electrical impulses continually being emitted by our brains as billions of neurons communicate with each other. One of the foundation technologies of thought-controlled computing is EEG (electroencephalography) which has been developed over decades for medical diagnosis based on the brain’s electrical activity.
By isolating specific brainwaves, these electrical impulses can be translated to act like a switch for whatever it’s connected to. InteraXon’s designers and engineers have worked to ensure the experience with Muse is so seamless, the connected technology seems like an extension of your own body!
InteraXon has been developing its first commercial product since 2007 and that process has been complex because Muse uses a mashup of technologies besides EEG. The Muse headband includes:
- Four sensors to detect the brainwaves
- Computing chip to collect and translate the brainwave data
- Computer science algorithms for the software that translates the brainwaves into computer language so it can “talk” to devices like smartphones and tablets
- Bluetooth wireless to connect it to devices
Besides the technical complexities, there’s also the common startup challenge of getting the funding to mass produce a product for market. InteraXon has launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo where contributor’s can get one of the first Muse headbands when they hit the market.
CareerMash Related Career Profiles
Mobile Apps Developer - Mobile apps developers love to solve problems and how to make apps controlled by our thoughts will eventually become a big market, helping to re-invent the way smartphones and tablets are used.
Mobile Apps Designer - Thought-controlled computing will need their own apps with specially designed graphics and interfaces to respond to commands from brainwaves rather than touch. Mobile apps designers are creative innovators, who will work out ways to incorporate new thought-controlled technology into popular apps so we can do things like check the weather or get GPS directions hands free!
Game Developer - One key market for thought-controlled computing will be video games. The first thought-controlled games just coming to market use simple thought commands like moving an object through a game. But the technology will eventually allow developers to create action-packed, elaborate games controlled by the mind instead of a joystick.
Software Programmer - Every new application using thought-controlled computing will require software to help translate brainwaves into actions or commands on our devices. The creativity of programmers will be essential to researching, designing and creating software for thought-controlled computing.