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The Year Of The Brain

posted Aug 19, 2014, 7:16 PM by Ellen Pearlman

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TEMPT’s graffiti tag in Los Angeles

Not Impossible is partnering with OpenBCI to make the Brainwriter, which can read and write brainwaves for completely paralyzed people. It’s open source and part of the DYI or Do It Yourself movement in technology to lower the bar to entry, and make what was formerly highly expensive devices available to the masses. It’s developed by Not Impossible Labs in Venice, California. Mick Ebling, one of the founders, created the Eyewriter, that allows any paralyzed person to communicate using only their eyes. He made it so ALS (Lou Gerhrig’s Disease) afflicted graffiti artist TEMPT could draw again using only his eyes.

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TEMPT’s father and friend and their promo to raise money to help TEMPT

The Brainwriter, which was developed to deal with TEMPT’s progressive ALS. His disease became so degenerative he could no longer rapidly blink his eyes, which is part of what makes the Eyewriter work. So his father and a friend went on YouTube to raise money to develop the Brainwriter. The device was just featured at The Barbican’s exhibit, "Digital Revolution" the most comprehensive presentation of digital creativity ever to be staged in the UK. Their work was included in the section, “Our Digital Futures.”

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Launch of the Brainwriter at the Barbican Center, London

Instead of using a $500 head cap, plugging into $2000 software in a rather expensive customized computer, OpenBCI makes it much cheaper to do that. To just print out the headset is $3 worth of material, though the board and the gel make with cost about $400, but at least the software is free.

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OpenBCI versus normal EEG headset

The exhibit at the Barbican has a sprayed mural with three sections: TEMPT’s portrait using the idea of drips, a physical showcase on the evolution of the Eyewriter to Brainwriter (Blink to Think), and ‘Robots in the sky,’ an interactive experience allowing a standing and wheelchair user to jointly play a specially commissioned game with just their eyes and brainwaves via a stethoscope EEG connector placed behind the ear. Users navigate through the game with their eyes, and the game also reads their brain waves.

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Poster, “From Blink To Think” at the Barbican

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The special brain stethoscope EEG connector

Sam Bergan was the team leader on this. He originally made a simple brain wave reader, which is the blue Nike headband, and connected it up to a prototype OpenBCI device and an Arduino Breadboard. He replaced the eye-blink-or-dwell selection of objects that the special program displays on a screen with EEG brainwave instructions.

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Prototype

Sam used 3 Olimex EEG sensors stitched into a headband, with a shielding board, plugged into a breadboard and wired into an OpenBCI. From the OpenBCI the signals are captured and spit into a GUI on a laptop the EEG data is processed and tested and paired  with either a SyMeyes, EyeTribe or Tobii eye tracker.

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Location of brain sensors inside headband

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OpenBCI software showing two active points on an individual

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