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Headgear Design Project: An adaptable and future-proof neutotech tool called Nerva

Hi there community!

I’d like to share a project that I did last year.  I intended to share it earlier, but somehow it never happened. Anyway, here it goes

I am a product designer and I did this project to complete my degree at TU Delft. ‘The brain’ has been a fascination of my brain for a more than a few years. For this final thesis I saw my chance to blend this fascination into my design-life and set up a neurotech headgear design thesis.

In this project I wanted to ‘develop a new, consumer oriented, multifunctional type of headgear‘. The role that I saw for this kind product in society is that it could give users a tool with which they could have the whole array of current and future neurotech applications at hand. Then with the right software (apps?) and electronic hardware (different modules) this product would be your best friend throughout the day.. helping you wake up in the morning, focus through traffic, make good decisions at work, learn piano in the evening, calm down before bed.. all of it. Combining both neuroanalysis and modification.

Now the great thing is that just at the start of this, I joined the Hack the Brain hackathon 2016 in Amsterdam. With a project unrelated to this all, my teams ended up on second place, which won us an OpenBCI (thanks again, Conor).  After asking politely it was me who could use it for the first couple months before I passed it on to another team member.

Some analysis
Looking at the current market of multifunctional systems, it seemed hard to find a good balance between functionality, product fit and user friendliness. I analyzed these topics in relation to headgear design in order to line out a couple of requirements. This included things such as the pressure on the contact points, the envelope of head sizes I was aiming for and some end-user quotes. This set the stage for the ideation phase.
Fit analysis

I entered an iterative creative process, first defining the basic structure of the system and then diving into the form and materialization of the different components. It was here that I decided to design a re-configurable frame that can be hooked up to different electronics. In a way this follows the UltraCortex philosophy, but it tries to take this out of the prototyping scene and offer it in a reinvented form to end users (at the start of the project I was still imagining an integrated solution).

Early sketches Later sketches

In the next stage I took the concept from impressions to detailed 3D models. For every part I looked into the Anthropometric and the Technical dimensioning, meaning that I tried to meet those requirements that I drafted earlier! I proposed materials and production processes and drafted the bill of materials.. ready for a first prototype.

Exploded view Development

Design presentation
Here is an explanation of the design:

also, this is the poster presentation I made at the time. Click to enlarge

Poster presentation

I made a prototype to test different aspects of the concept proposal, such as the assembly properties, the accuracy of the fit and the quality of the user experience. This is also where I could finally hook up that OpenBCI and see if indeed I could use the headgear combined with OpenBCI to read out signals.

I placed the product on the heads of 10 individuals and measured the accuracy i.r.t. target sites and inquired about their subjective experience. This evaluation lead to loads of points for further improvements.. but that was beyond the scope of the project. Most important: the OpenBCI test was successful and the live demo during the presentation of my thesis definitely helped to crick up my end grade 🙂

Nerva Prototype

A little branding
I gave this design the name Nerva headgear. I see it as something that could be part of a larger platform environment that could include e.g. a application library, brain-app-store, different add-ons etc. This larger platform environment is what I called ‘my.Nerva’, stressing the personalizing character (and winking to some greek mythology here).

What now?
After obtaining my degree, I have not taken it any further. There are still tons of improvements to be made on the design, and probably also on the business case. What I hope to achieve with this post is also not necessarily to bring it back to life (though it could), but I am mainly hoping that it can inspire others in whatever projects they are working on, starting at or dreaming about.

further reading:
– most of this post is adapted from my portfolio website.
– my project report is published in the TU Delft repository.


Thats it! Happy to share it and hope you like it.

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