Open BCI

I’ve always been interested in brain/computer interfacing, but never knew much about the field. When the OpenBCI open source platform came out on Kickstarter, I supported the campaign and signed up for one of their first boards. I thought with my Arduino experience up to that point that it would be a good next step.

My previous exposure to brain-computer interfacing was via the work of Michael O’Bannon’s presentations at electro-music. Michael demonstrated how the low level signals of the brain could be amplified and then translated into abstract sound and visuals via MAX programming. I wanted to learn more about this area, even if I didn’t consider myself a programmer.

Several months after joining the Kickstarter campaign, my OpenBCI 8-bit board came and I soon found it was too much to take on without a serious time commitment. My initial test was rough at best, and I found it difficult to do even basic stuff all by myself. This is not a very good solo project, and would work better with at least one other person. Without the headgear to keep the electrodes in place, it soon became a frustrating mess. The makers of OpenBCI say they want to make things more accessible, and I believe them. But what does “accessible” mean. There is a 3D-printable head-set solution, but I don’t know anyone with a 3D printer.

I put out feelers at a local medical center to see if anyone was interested in collaborating on an exploration of the OpenBCI platform, but no one responded. I also posted on some of the user boards to see if anyone might be interested in collaborating remotely. There is some hope that this will turn up something more fruitful.

When you get to some of these more specialized platforms. A lot of knowledge is assumed and it is so cutting edge that there isn’t enough basic info available. There weren’t enough tutorials available for the newbie when I first started. That seems to have changed.

I also felt like I needed some context. To better acquaint myself with this realm I started with “A Symphony in the Brain” by Jim Robbins. This was a helpful step in understanding the contentious backstory of this field, and it has helped me gain some perspective on next steps for my own exploration. While I’ve been away, the Open BCI folks have been busy offering a faster, better board. So I still think this is something I’ll be exploring in the future.