Believe it or not, brainwaves are not only used for medical diagnosis and therapy. For decades EEG activity has been investigated as a non-invasive way to control external devices using “thought power” alone.
This could become an extremely useful technology for disabled persons, but could also be a way to improve productivity in many work environments, or could give users finer control over complex equipment. For example, the U.S. government is currently exploring ways EEG could be used to give personnel “hands off” control over vehicles and planes. A few months ago I saw a bit on the news about a guy who connected the steering on his boat to an EEG, so he could use his own thought to steer the ship around a harbor.
Popular EEG software today has many interesting capabilities built in. You can use your mind as a remote control for DVDs, to control games or create music.
But could the brain’s activity alone replace the steady hands of a painter? Could the brain alone replicate the complex melodies of professional musicians?
Brainwaves as a musical instrument
The use of brain waves to control tones and MIDI instruments has been the subject of research for some time. During the WinterBrain conference I heard the distinct atonal, random-sounding notes coming out an EEG-controlled synthesizer. Coming from a musical family myself, I wouldn’t call what comes out of most of these devices music. But improvements in the algorithms used could revolutionize the process. Here is a recent video that will show you what I mean:
Brainwaves as a paintbrush
The definition of art is an interesting debate to follow, and has changed a lot in modern centuries, with Marcel DuChamp famously submitting an unaltered urinal to a museum as his showpiece in 1917.
As time moves on, we will see advances in technology creating many new and exciting art forms and genres. Some might call EEG a pure form of expression unequaled by other mediums, where you are truly peering into the soul of the artist.
So far visual representation of EEG signals has been largely limited to wave-like images of varying colors, used mainly for therapy and analysis. But newcomers to the field are taking this to an entirely new level. I saw some interesting video coming out of a booth at WinterBrain, not unlike the visualizations used in Mind Stereo and other media players.
Here are some videos of the innovative, EEG-powered “Mind VJ”:
Excerpt from the site:
The role of the VJ is to create a visual performance in real time, inspired by the rhythm and flow of the DJ’s music performance.
In MIND VJ, the idea is to use the rhythm of our own brain waves as the conducting element for the performance. In this manner, we can tap into a normally “hidden” area of our body (brain function and its electrical activity) and make it “visible” in the form of projected images. In this case, the images projected won’t be wave graphs, like the ones usually plotted by medical EEG machines, but artistic images, undergoing real-time changes and manipulations controlled by the current brain wave output of the subject (the MIND VJ)
Brainwaves as a game controller
There was a lot of buzz at the end of 2006 about the new gaming controller released by Nintendo. Because it requires more movement than the typical gamepad or joystick, chiropractors and fitness gurus around the world hailed the new controller as a healthy advancement likely to make our society a tad bit less sedentary.
Perhaps in 5 or 10 years the latest and greatest game controller will be a headband that picks up on brain signals, and neurologists around the world will praise it for its capacity for brain exercise.
Here is a recent article on a teenager who learned to control the game Space Invaders with an EEG signal: http://news-info.wustl.edu/news/page/normal/7800.html
Here is another game that has been making some news lately, called MindBall: http://www.i-p.se/index.aspx?page=mindball&mId=1
You can try EEG games for yourself using the EEG units we offer, and an available game package such as “InnerTube” available here.
Brainwaves for controlling robots??
I admit I’m having trouble thinking of ways this could be useful to society, but it sure is cool!