Why I’m Getting into the Mobile Neurotech Scene
From a technological standpoint, this is a very interesting time in history. Technology is moving in a way that has made it more physically and cognitively relevant and necessary to how we operate. We have developed important mediums for our behaviour and interactions with others. This is reflected in how valuable phone data has become for companies and researchers. It’s no longer about the value of person’s contact information but about the integrated information you can get using app data, search engine keywords, social media posts, GPS, and more.
Neuroimaging as tool for understanding behaviour has been around for decades. For most of that time, it has been in a laboratory setting using primarily functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) or electroencephalography (EEG). The fMRI studies are good for figuring out where activity is going on in the brain by measuring changes in blood flow and oxidisation levels. The problem is that the images happen over seconds which is slow for monitoring quick responses to stimuli but great for understanding where in the brain activity is happening. EEG use is electrical potential to measure activity in the brain. Because of this, EEG picks up faster responses and is very good for reactions to individual stimuli.
Neuroimaging, particularly EEG, is at a stage where a lot of researchers and manufacturers are really interested in the usability and portability of the technology. There is a delicate balance between making a portable device and figuring out what is compromised due to lack of resistance to outside signals or the lack of electrodes. For instance, a seven electrode headset will be naturally worse at location than a 16 or 32 electrode because there are less points to compare. If a headset is only on the top or front of the head, it will not do a good job at reading the visual part of the brain. This is just one reason why the specific insight or question you’re asking is important.
Products from Emotiv, Muse, and (for the slightly more tech savvy) OpenBCI, are bridging the gap between researchers with expensive equipment and experience with the technology and individuals or companies with less experience. Emotiv and Muse have sections on their sites devoted to showing how their products are used in research (Emotiv studies, Muse research). These devices are going to become more commonplace over time in the same way that fitness trackers have. But unlike fitness trackers, you need to understand a bit more about the context where these devices are being used. The aforementioned limitations are why you need to be careful when deciding what makes sense for the specific insight you’re after.
I believe that it’s exciting to start seeing in which context neurotechnology fits for different industries and how it can lead to better health, better product design, and better insights into people. It won’t be too long before people can start understanding metrics about their brain the same way someone tracks their run or their diet. Or a brand can form their identity with a clear idea of what their followers/consumers are like and how a change in direction would impact their appreciation of the brand.
This is why I am currently working on my Daotive Insights company. I am interested in the legitimate use of mobile neurotechnology and showing people the benefits and limitations. This is the way the technology advances in the right direction and stays a legitimate science. I’m also interested in branching out into different industries and product design processes to see how insights from this technology can benefit or create new experiences for people.
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