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Mind-Controlled Computing Goes Open Source

Brain-computer Interfaces have made great progress as of late, but still aren’t very sophisticated. A team of engineers wants the makers and hackers of the world to fix that.

Mind-Controlled Computing Goes Open Source

[Image: Flickr user J Brew]

Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs) are the systems that allow for direct communication between the brain and an external device. Existing BCI models are being worked on every day, but it’s all being done almost exclusively by researchers and engineers with access to extensive resources. Joel Murphy and Conor Russomanno are two engineers that want to lower that barrier. What mind-control needs, they believe, are some makers.

OpenBCI is their solution. It’s an open source, Arduino-powered BCI that allows anyone with a laptop to access their brainwaves. Murphy and Russomanno hope that by putting a programmable device that interfaces neurofeedback with whatever program a coder can cook up, they’ll help give BCI development a shot in the arm. So they’ve launched a Kickstarter, where they explain why they believe the field needs an interdisciplinary approach:

"We feel that the biggest challenges in understanding what makes us who we are cannot be solved by a company, an institution or even an entire field of science. Rather, we believe these discoveries will be made through an open forum of shared knowledge and concerted effort by people from many different disciplines."

As exciting as the prospect of getting BCI tech into the hands of the DIY crowd is, it would be erroneous to believe that the field has been stalling. In the past year alone, we’ve seen wired implants that allow paralyzed patients to control robotic limbs, a Brown University team develop the first wireless BCI implant, and most recently, a non-invasive BCI that allows for direct brain-to-brain control.

Progress, it would seem, is happening fast. But Murphy and Russomanno think it could be even faster, and further outside-the-box. If their project reaches its funding goal, they just might be proven right.