Posted by Mike Caprio
I have a bachelors degree in computer science from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and I’ve been a software engineer and database developer by trade since 1997.
Over the course of the last few months, I’ve been collecting various pieces of hardware that I thought would be fun to play with. I soldered together a Freeduino, and I bought a couple interesting kits to build, but nothing jumped out at me in terms of a really cool project to pursue. Then I caught a news piece about something that blew me away – a children’s toy coming out for Christmas 2009: the Uncle Milton “Force Trainer”. Very simply, it’s a wireless EEG that sends signals to a variable speed fan which makes a ping pong ball float; it also has some LEDs and a speaker that spits out some preprogrammed phrases, all controlled by a small microcontroller with some manner of wireless receiver hooked up to it – only $75 a pop! So I bought two of them and tried it out.
I ultimately realized that all the bits I’d been collecting were part of a unified whole, and that epiphany led me to Brain Hacking. My eventual goal is to learn more about my brain states under various conditions, and devise ways to improve its performance, of course! I’ve always believed that my memory and creative thinking are improved by particular circumstances and environments – and now I’ll be able to test those theories with some hardware and likely some custom software I’ll write for data acquisition and mental performance testing.
One of the kits I’d bought was a Mini POV3 from Adafruit Industries, for the purpose of converting it into one of Mitch Altman‘s brain machines (now being sold as “Trip Glasses” if you want to skip the kit building part).
It occurred to me that I could use the brain/sound-and-light machine (SLM) as an input to tune my brain to particular states, and then I could use an EEG to measure the output and figure out what EEG readings correspond to what brainwaves I’m generating. As of now, I’ve built the brain machine and tested it (the photo for this entry shows the kit assembled but not glued together), and it works as advertised. Some preliminary hacking on the Force Trainer EEG has shown some promising results, but it may turn out that I’ll need to build my own more sophisticated rig. I’m attending a class on bioelectricity at Bug Labs tonight to learn more about the subject of DIY bioelectric measurement.
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