Scientists from Wit University have devised a way of connecting the human brain to the internet in a world first. Dubbed the 'Brainternet' project, the research is a major breakthrough in biomedical engineering.
The project is spearheaded by Adam Pantanowitz, a lecturer in the Wits School of Electrical and Information Engineering. He supervised Jemma-Faye Chait and Danielle Winter's involvement in the project as well. Pantanowitz explains, “Brainternet is a new frontier in brain-computer interface systems. There is a lack of easily understood data about how a human brain works and processes information. Brainternet seeks to simplify a person's understanding of their own brain and the brains of others. It does this through continuous monitoring of brain activity as well as enabling some interactivity."
How Brainternet works
The sci-fi sounding project works by converting a human's electroencephalogram (EEG) signal in an open source brain live stream. To achieve this, the subject wears a mobile, internet accessible Emotiv EEG device. The Emotiv transmits the EEG signals of the wearer to a Raspberry Pi which then live streams the signals to an application programming interface which displays the data on a website that acts as a visual interface.
While the work itself is incredibly complex, one of the beauties of the project is its innovative use of relatively simple equipment. Rasberry Pi is a credit card sized little computer that is inexpensive to buy.
Watch a brain work in real time
Pantanowitz and his team have big plans for developing Brainternet. "Ultimately, we're aiming to enable interactivity between the user and their brain so that the user can provide a stimulus and see the response. Brainternet can be further improved to classify recordings through a smartphone app that will provide data for a machine-learning algorithm. In future, there could be information transferred in both directions – inputs and outputs to the brain," says Pantanowitz. Data collected by the Brainternet project will give us a clearer insight into the ways our brains work, this could teach us how to learn better, avoid disease or even what exactly love is.
Elon Musk may be keen to get involved
The Brainternet project provides a host of opportunities for development into machine learning. The project could also have a significant impact on the developing world of brain-computer interfaces. Tesla Ceo Elon Musk is backing the neural lace project that could spell the end of debilitating neural diseases. Bryan Johnson is also backing a similar project, throwing $100 million towards the neural interface project, Kernel.
The startup hopes to produce a brain implant that could be easily accessible to sufferers of neurological conditions such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's that would reduce their symptoms.