Examine your own brain!

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

OpenBCI
This is a picture of the OpenBCI chip. One day, it can be responsible for mind-controlled video games!

Playing doctor is always a blast, whether you’re pretending to listen to heartbeats with a plastic stethoscope or knocking someone’s knees with that little toy hammer. Given recent advances in smartphone technology, it’s now possible to offer real medical advice… straight from your house! For example, I know of an app that prescribes glasses, an iPhone case that monitors heartbeats, and a device that can detect ear infections. Well, OpenBCI from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) isn’t for a phone, but it’ll let you watch your brain activity right at home!

The OpenBCI is a baseball-sized chip that works with an electroencephalograph (EEG) machine – a gadget that measures brain waves. The chip reads the information from electrodes on a cap and streams the data onto a laptop, where the waves are displayed on the screen! Well, I’ve seen pictures of brainwaves before in textbooks, and they look pretty boring to me. What’s so cool about watching them on a computer?

Uh, besides the fact that it’s your own brain, OpenBCI will be cheap enough for everyone to use however they please! “Once you can control the computer with your brain, then you can do almost anything,” says Joel Murphy, a biofeedback scientist who helped create the EEG. “Brain control of everything.” Oh no, does this mean schools are going to use the cap and force us to pay attention in class? Actually, it’s more fun than that. The inventors hope individuals will purchase the device (since it’s inexpensive) and do cool science experiments, craft awesome art, and even design mind-controlled video games!

Murphy is planning to raise money on the crowdsourcing website called Kickstarter. If he gets enough support, the OpenBCI can be as cheap as 30 bucks! I just hope they keep the technology away from my teachers…

Featured image courtesy of OpenBCI on Twitter. Image of OpenBCI chip courtesy of OpenBCI.