Beck’s Hackathon Challenge: Mind Control

  • Apr 25, 2015

We know what you’re thinking.

Mind-machine interfaces are either the stuff of science fiction or video game gimmicks. But what if you could fly a drone with your mind or navigate through a 3D model by thinking commands? In this AEC Hackathon challenge, we’d like to see what’s possible.

Research on brain control interfaces (BCI) has been ongoing since the discovery of alpha waves in the 1920s. Surgically invasive forms of BCI such as cochlear implants connect to the nervous system to restore hearing while visual cortex implants are beginning to give users a sense of sight. A much less invasive approach is to wear a type of sensor-studded cap, which can detect and amplify brain activity from the surface of your scalp (electroencephalography or EEG).

Consumers can purchase a simple brainwave headset for as little as $100. An MIT grad student designed and built such a device into a bicycle helmet and had bicyclists wear it to generate a map of the New York City’s streets. The map’s color codes reflect the amount of focus required on each street.

The Virtual Building Group will bring their Emotiv Epoc+ EEG headset to the AEC Hackathon and are offering a $500 prize for the individual or team who can develop the most compelling use case for it during the hackathon. Data available from the Epoc+ include facial expressions such as winking or smirking, quantifiable level of emotions such as degree of frustration or excitement, and thought patterns that can “recorded” and mapped to actions like push or pull. In addition, the headset has a gyro/accelerometer to track position.

Groups vying for the prize will use the free Emotiv SDK-Lite, which allows for development without the actual hardware. The headset will be available for “brain training,” live testing and final demonstrations. Code developed on the Windows platform should be in C# or Python. Code developed on OSX should be done in Python. The winning group agrees to release their code under an Open Source license.

Judging criteria for this challenge will be weighted equally among the following:

  • Creativity/Originality
  • Viability
  • Usability (headset notwithstanding)
  • Integration with other technology