You nervous system, controls your brain and your body, is simply a complex electrical network. By sending electrical current to your nerves you can hijack your own natural action potentials and your muscle will read this as a natural signal to flex. You’re own free will gets overruled by the technology, it’s very difficult (impossible) to mentally send a stronger & faster command than the BackYard Brain Human-to-Human device does.
Positioning the electrodes to stimulate the muscle with no pain and no tickling requires a bit of patience. If you are ‘spot on’, you with notice a good effect and you will feel it it your muscle with no pain or bad sensation. Otherwise, you will have to crank up the current a little and your muscle will still get the message, but you will feel the current all over your arm. You will notice that it’s weird. You have to know that only a small fraction of the current is going to the right place and because you are ‘blasting’ the zone, it works.
EMG vs EEG
We will call the ‘sender’ the person sending the command and the ‘receiver’ the person receiving the stimulation.
Muscle to Muscle : The first demo we did was using EMG as the trigger to activate, or deactivate the stimulation. Using an OpenBCI board and electrodes on the forearm muscle where the sender had only to clench. The first strong EMG signal peak above the threshold will send the command to activate the muscle stimulation. At the other end, the person is hooked up to the Backyard Brain HHI (could be any muscle stimulator that you can control with a laptop) to receive an electrical stimulation that will activate his muscle.
Brain to Muscle : Similar to the muscle to muscle, but a bit ‘cooler’. The receiver part is exactly the same. Only the sender part is different, now using brain signals to go above the threshold instead of muscle EMG. For simplicity we used the alpha peak, so the sender could simply close his eyes and relax, to flex someone else’s arm. This was a quick hack and we wanted to do a live demo, we will continue to work on this project and have lots of crazy ideas ! Stay tuned.
Technical Description :
Thursday : Testing the Tech…
It all started Thursday night when Conor Russomanno, CEO of OpenBCI got in Montreal. Straight from the airport he came join us at District 3, an awesome innovation center in Montréal.
Thursday night, hacking & testing new tech. That’s my kind of Thursday night ! #HavingFun #HappyKids
Friday : Hacking…
Friday, coding & hacking to put all the pieces together. It’s not because you are organizing & MCing a Hackathon that you cannot hack yourself ! My kind of Satruday. #Passion
Saturday : Live Demo ! Montreal – Amsterdam
Conor Russomanno, in Montreal, controlling Pieter van Boheemen’s arm, in Amsterdam. (Muscle to Muscle)
Someone from Amsterdam controlling Yannick Roy’s arm on stage in Montreal. (Muscle to Muscle)
Open Source !
Since we all believe in open source, here is the GitHub if you want to reproduce the combo OpenBCI + Backyard Brain to create a Human to Human Interface over the Internet. We do not provide all the instructions for the muscle stimulation and do not encourage you to try it before reading a little on the subject (be responsible) ! Please visit the Backyard Brains website before any muscle stimulation. This project & code are only in prototype phase (hackathon style ^^). We will improve it and clean the code in later revisions.
If you reproduce this project, please send us any cool picture of what you do with it, @BCIMontreal & @OpenBCI !
This whole project was inspired by Greg Gage’s TEDTalk :
We would like to thank Backyard Brains for sending us their HHI device ! And also for their amazing work in the field of DIY Neuroscience. If you don’t know these guys, go check them out !
We would like to thank OpenBCI and Conor (the CEO) for coming to Montreal for our weekend long hackathon and helping teams with their projects and still finding some time to hack with us on this ! If you are not part of the OpenBCI community, go register and start working on cool projects, stop waiting !
Hack the Brain
We would like to thank our Brain-Hacker fellows from Hack the Brain for their collaboration. This was only the first step, we will continue to work on this prototype. Stay tune for next year TransAtlantic Biodata Communication project !
We would like to thank Waag Society for supporting innovation and sponsoring these Hack the Brain events !
If you would like to work / hack on that kind of project with us, please contact us.