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In-Ear Eeg Makes ­nobtrusive Brain-Hacking Gadgets a Real Possibility

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A commercial electroencephalogram headseat adapted for use via an ear canal.

Two groups of researchers are working to develop electroencephalogram sensors for use in brain-hacking applications.

Credit: Max Curran

Electroencephalogram (EEG) sensors that fit inside the ear are being developed by two research teams to provide reliable brain data for use in unobtrusive brain-hacking applications.

John Chuang's lab at the University of California, Berkeley has tweaked a commercial EEG headset and redirected the electrode from the forehead to the ear canal. The group aims to use this setup to transmit mental commands to control a computer, a drone, or another electronic device. The team tested five different "mental gestures" and selected the two with the clearest EEG signatures as a potential binary control system for any linked device.

Meanwhile, Imperial College London's Danilo Mandic is working on an EEG interface using an in-ear sensor fashioned from an off-the-shelf noise-blocking earplug made from memory foam. Two electrodes composed of a soft silver-coated fabric are attached to the sides of the earplug, enabling the collection of high-quality EEG signals. Mandic says his team is clearing a path for a "truly wearable" EEG system, while also setting up "completely new avenues in 24/7 monitoring of the state of body and mind." Among the uses envisioned by Mandic are monitoring the progress of chronic diseases, tracking sleep patterns, and keeping tabs on military personnel's mental state and fitness for duty.

From IEEE Spectrum
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