NextMind Makes a Leap Toward Controlling Computers With Your Thoughts

NextMind device on the back of a baseball cap.
NextMind

Bridging the gap between your brain and the device you’re reading this on marks one of the final frontiers of modern technology. The race is on for tech companies to learn how the human brain works and to make gadgets that can let you do things like type with your mind. Ahead of the pack, a French neurotechnology startup called NextMind has been demoing one such device at CES 2020.

NextMind’s product (…called NextMind) is said to be the world’s first non-invasive, hands-free brain-computer interface that can translate the brain signals from your visual cortex into digital commands in real time. The NextMind is a small puck-like device that is worn on the back of your head with a hat or some other headgear.

NextMind feature diagram.
NextMind

Inside, it has eight electrodes and an unnamed proprietary material that is sensitive enough to enable a dry form of electroencephalogram (EEG) technology for reading your brain activity. EEG tech often requires some kind of wetware that makes a tight connection against your skin. But between the top-secret material that NextMind is using and the device’s comb-like surface, it can get close enough to your skull to do its thing.

When you look at something on a screen and your eyes send that image to the visual cortex of your brain, the NextMind can decode the electrical signals associated with that image and then communicate with the device you’re using. For instance, if you’re focusing on the play button of a video, the NextMind can translate that and start playing the video.

That’s a basic example and the company has its sights set much higher than that. A device like this could be used to play video games for example, and it fits perfectly on the back of virtual reality goggles. NextMind is already working on getting a dev kit in the hands of developers and hobbyists who will be able to build their own brain-controlled applications and virtual environments in Unity 3D.

One of the big challenges with bringing this type of technology forward is figuring out methods to improve the bandwidth of reading that neural activity. It’ll probably also take some strides in machine learning to fully map and decode those signals, but the fundamentals are in place and NextMind has impressed a lot of people who got to try it at CES. It has also won two awards at CES 2020 for best innovation in augmented and virtual reality, and best wearable technology.

NextMind attached to virtual reality goggles.
NextMind

During the initial setup, you calibrate the NextMind with a series of exercises that generate a few megabytes of data about your neural profile. From there, a hands-on report from Wired says the demo device can let you play basic games like a knock-off of Nintendo’s Duck Hunt and operate the controls on a mock television. The demo also allowed testers to change the colors on a set of smart light bulbs that the company set up.

For now, it sounds like NextMind needs you to be looking at distinct imagery for it to be effective at reading brain activity. Along with working on more compact models of the NextMind and being able to decode more detailed images, the company is also developing a method for reading your visual imagination—no external imagery required.

NextMind development kit next to a laptop.
NextMind

If you’re a developer or bonafide tinkerer who wants to get their hands on a NextMind device for testing, the company has launched a pre-order waitlist. Head to this page and sign up if you want to be among the first in line for placing your pre-order. The dev kit will cost $399 and is expected to launch sometime during the first half of 2020.

Source: NextMind (2)

Matthew DeCarlo Matthew DeCarlo
Matthew DeCarlo has been in digital publishing for more than a decade, during which time he has authored and edited thousands of technology articles including industry news, hardware and software reviews, product buying guides, how-tos, editorials, in-depth explainers, trivia, and more. Read Full Bio »

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