A quick post to alert people to the first forum for the Community for Passive BCI Research that take place from the 16th to the 18th of July at the Hanse Institute for Advanced Study in Delmenhorst, near Bremen, Germany. This event is being organised by Thorsten Zander from the Berlin Institute of Technology.
The main aim of the forum in his own words “is to connect researchers in this young field and to give them a platform to share their motivations and intentions. Therefore, the focus will not be primarily set on the presentation of new scientific results, but on the discussion of current and future directions and the possibilities to shape the community.”
Last week I attended the first international conference on physiological computing held in Lisbon. Before commenting on the conference, it should be noted that I was one of the program co-chairs, so I am not completely objective – but as this was something of a watershed event for research in this area, I didn’t want to let the conference pass without comment on the blog.
The conference lasted for two-and-a-half days and included four keynote speakers. It was a relatively small meeting with respect to the number of delegates – but that is to be expected from a fledgling conference in an area that is somewhat niche with respect to methodology but very broad in terms of potential applications.
I’ve written a couple of posts about the Emotiv EPOC over the years of doing the blog, from user interface issues in this post and the uncertainties surrounding the device for customers and researchers here.
The good news is that research is starting to emerge where the EPOC has been systematically compared to other devices and perhaps some uncertainties can be resolved. The first study comes from the journal Ergonomics from Ekandem et al and was published in 2012. You can read an abstract here (apologies to those without a university account who can’t get behind the paywall). These authors performed an ergonomic evaluation of both the EPOC and the NeuroSky MindWave. Data was obtained from 11 participants, each of whom wore either a Neurosky or an EPOC for 15min on different days. They concluded that there was no clear ‘winner’ from the comparison. The EPOC has 14 sites compared to the single site used by the MindWave hence it took longer to set up and required more cleaning afterwards (and more consumables). No big surprises there. It follows that signal acquisition was easier with the MindWave but the authors report that once the EPOC was connected and calibrated, signal quality was more consistent than the MindWave despite sensor placement for the former being obstructed by hair.
I am one of the organisers for a workshop event at ICMI 2012 entitled “BCI Grand Challenges.” The deadline for submissions was this coming Friday (15th) but has now been extended until the 30th June. Full details are below.
The field of Physiological Computing consists of systems that use data from the human nervous system as control input to a technological system. Traditionally these systems have been grouped into two categories, those where physiological data is used as a form of input control and a second where spontaneous changes in physiology are used to monitor the psychological state of the user. The field of Brain-Computer Interfacing (BCI) traditionally conceives of BCIs as a controller for interfaces, a device which allows you to “act on” external devices as a form of input control. However, most BCIs do not provide a reliable and efficient means of input control and are difficult to learn and use relative to other available modes. We propose to change the conceptual use of “BCI as an actor” (input control) into “BCI as an intelligent sensor” (monitor). This shift of emphasis promotes the capacity of BCI to represent spontaneous changes in the state of the user in order to induce intelligent adaptation at the interface. BCIs can be increasingly used as intelligent sensors which “read” passive signals from the nervous system and infer user states to adapt human-computer, human-robot or human-human interaction (HCI, HRI, HHI). This perspective on BCIs challenges researchers to understand how information about the user state should support different types of interaction dynamics, from supporting the goals and needs of the user to conveying state information to other users. What adaptation to which user state constitutes opportune support? How does the feedback of the changing HCI and human-robot interaction affect brain signals? Many research challenges need to be tackled here.
Grand Challenge Website
The deadline for submissions to this special session has been extended to May 20th
Anton Nijholt from University of Twente and Rob Jacob from Tufts University are organizing a special session at ICMI 2011 on “BCI and Multimodality”. All ICMI sessions, including the special sessions, are plenary. Hence, having a special session during the ICMI conference means that there is the opportunity to address a broad audience and make them aware of new developments and special topics. Clearly, if we look at BCI for non-medical applications a multimodal approach is natural. We can make use of knowledge about user, task, and context. Part of this information is available in advance, part of the information becomes available on-line in addition to EEG or fNIRS measured brain activity. The intended user is not disabled, he or she can use other modalities to pass commands and preferences to the system, and the system may also have information obtained from monitoring the mental state of the user. Moreover, it may be the case that different BCI paradigms can be employed in parallel or sequentially in multimodal (or hybrid) BCI applications.
Workshop at ACII 2011
The second workshop on affective brain-computer interfaces will explore the advantages and limitations of using neuro-physiological signals as a modality for the automatic recognition of affective and cognitive states, and the possibilities of using this information about the user state in innovative and adaptive applications. The goal is to bring researchers from the communities of brain computer interfacing, affective computing, neuro-ergonomics, affective and cognitive neuroscience together to present state-of-the-art progress and visions on the various overlaps between those disciplines.
I came across an article in a Sunday newspaper a couple of weeks ago about an artist called xxxy who has created an installation using a BCI of sorts. I’m piecing this together from what I read in the paper and what I could see on his site, but the general idea is this: person wears a portable EEG rig (I don’t recognise the model) and is placed in a harness with wires reaching up and up and up into the ceiling. The person closes their eyes and relaxes – presumably as they enter a state of alpha augmentation, they begin to levitate courtesy of the wires. The more that they relax or the longer they sustain that state, the higher they go. It’s hard to tell from the video, but the person seems to be suspended around 25-30 feet in the air.
Well there goes by another year I don’t get to spend the holidays playing with the Wii Vitality. I’m beginning to think Nintendo have given up on the whole idea of biofeedback adapted gaming given the lack of noise they’ve made since the platforms original announcement in June 2009. I originally bought my Wii on the premise that Nintendo was going to start the ball rolling on integrating biofeedback interfaces into mainstream games, and to that effect have speculated several times on the type of experiences we might see and how they would work (e.g. action games, lie-detection, relaxation and fitness). However it looks like this device will remain vaporware for the foreseeable future. Continue reading
The UK version of Wired magazine ran an article in last month’s edition (no online version available) about Emotiv and the development of the EPOC headset. Much of the article focused on the human side of the story, the writer mixed biographical details of company founders with how the ideas driving the development of the headset came together. I’ve written about Emotiv before here on a specific technical issue. I still haven’t had any direct experience of the system, but I’d like to write about the EPOC again because it’s emerging as the headset of choice for early adopters.
In this article, I’d like to discuss a number of dilemmas that are faced by both the company and their customers. These issues aren’t specific to Emotiv, they hold for other companies in the process of selling/developing hardware for physiological computing systems.