Fancy planning your daily schedule according to your mood and optimum concentration times? Then TU Delft's new lightweight, brainwave-monitoring headset maybe just the thing
Together with microelectronic and wireless technology research centre, Holst Imec, six TU Delft students have designed a comfortable wireless EEG (electroencephalogram) headset that can monitor the brain‘s electrical signals while a person goes about their daily routine. Produced on a 3D-printer, the headset measures the brain’s electrical activity without the need for medical supervision, and used together with a smart phone app, it enables a person to optimise their daily routine based on their moods and emotions.
So why should someone want to walk around wearing an electroencephalogram? Firstly for medical reasons: EEG output provides useful information for treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) patients, for instance, or people with sleeping problems. Then there are lifestyle reasons: "Many people like to measure their heartbeat or stress levels," said Frederick van Meeteren, one of the students who are all studying Integrated Product Design at TU Delft's Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering (IDE); "so this fits right in with this so-called Quantified Self Trend."
Previous incarnations of EEG headsets have been heavier, much more expensive and decidedly clunkier, featuring uncomfortable pins that stick into the wearer‘s head. "User experience likened the old version to a 'brain-washing' machine", said IDE Master's student, Alaitz Izaguirre. Furthermore, EEG-monitoring often involves a trip to the hospital where a technician covers the patient's head in gel, before attaching 21 electrodes, all held in place by a rubber cap. Now, using the Holst Centre's newly developed ’dry electrodes", the TU team was able to embed the electronics in a single curved piece of the headset made from soft polymers on a 3D-printer.
"One of the biggest challenges," said student team-member, Eva Dijkema, "was to find the right balance between comfort, and good quality electrical signals from the brain." So the team set about testing their numerous prototypes on many volunteers - all with differently sized heads. "And because we wanted to create a ‘one-size-fits-all' headset, it was also a challenge to get the right shape to put pressure on the right places on the head," said Dijkema. Fortunately 3D-printing is developing fast right now and, said van Meteren, "It's really the best way to produce the headset’s curved shapes."