After the Hackathon I took a break from the actual building of the project and I went back to look into the fundamental concept of what I wanted to build. S.E.F was designed to be worn by an astronaut and operated by a third party assistance either in the International space station or down in mission control. The astronaut could dictate directions to the assistant and in a few seconds he could get what he needed on his screen. However this wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to create an interface that would allow the astronaut to control the system himself. I wanted to shift control to the field operator. After researching and reviewing i wasn’t finding any solution that really gripped me. A voice operated system could interfere with general voice communications, gestures, joysticks, touchscreens, and eye tracking were too intrusive or distracting. I found myself thinking “if only I had telekinesis or something”.
Fall 2015 I was took Physics II and the professor explained, he didn’t provide extra credit assignments in the course but he does provide an optional semester research project. I was sold, I used the opportunity to investigate EEG technology through the course as majority of the material covered in that class was electrical theory. Just as the semester was starting I was able to secure funds from a inkind donation to purchase an Open BCI headset. This was way outside of my knowledge, experience, and understanding at the time but I was determined more than ever to see if I could actually use my brain to control software and even maybe hardware! I recruited a fellow class mate Joao Almeida who was an immense help during the project. I absolutely could not have done this portion of the project without him.
Our first step was to learn everything about the hardware we were using and as much as we could about the brain in terms of an electrical system. Week took about a month to assemble the 3D printed headset and then we looked the two different software suites we could use to look at brain activity. We mainly used Processing created by Open BCI and Neuromore studio created by Neuromore.
After presenting our semester project our professor recommended that we submit our project as a student paper at the ASEE conference. We had to work twice as hard and twice as fast to produce more material enough for a paper. Luckily Joao and I were quite comfortable working with each other and we were able to pull it off. Here is our published student research paper.
With this paper it is still unclear how close we are to seamlessly controlling software with our minds, one thing that is clear, is that I’m not giving up anytime soon and it’s definitely not impossible.