These ‘neurohacking’ headphones use AI to track your brain signals to help you stay productive

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solo15 June 2023Last Update : 4 months ago
These ‘neurohacking’ headphones use AI to track your brain signals to help you stay productive

Headphones that can tell when you’re tired and should take a break could be on sale later this year.

Biohacking has been a buzzword for years, a broad term encapsulating techniques that can “hack” our biology in order to improve our lives.

Speaking at a panel discussion on the ethics and opportunities of biohacking at this year’s VivaTech in Paris, Gabriela Ramos, Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences at UNESCO, described biohacking as “knowing your own biology and working to improve it.” defined as. ,

Examples of biohacking can be something as simple as drinking coffee for a caffeine-induced energy boost, wearing smart watches or rings to track heart rate, blood pressure or sleep. According to Ramos, the biohacking industry is currently worth about $14 billion (€12.9 billion), and is growing at 20 percent per year.

A developing subset of biohacking was on show at Vivatech on Wednesday: neurohacking.

This refers specifically to techniques for hacking your brain, and can include things like taking supplements to improve brain function to surgically implanted neural devices to treat diseases.

Speaking on the same panel as Ramos was Dr. Ramses Alcaide, CEO of Neurable.

His company is developing headphones that can track brain signals, detecting when the wearer is in a deep meditative state, or when their attention is slipping.

“These headphones have silver bands that are actually electrodes, and they look like soft fabric,” he told Euronews Next.

“They record brain activity from around your ear area. And then using our AI, we’re able to boost that signal so that we pick up on a lot of the original responses in your brain.”

reading your brain waves

Because the frontal lobe of the brain is an area associated with focus, the headphones are able to detect contextual cues that Neuralable’s artificial intelligence program is able to enhance.

Euronews Next had the opportunity to test out the headphones for themselves, and saw how increased focus levels were shown when actively focusing on something.

The idea behind them is to give people a better sense of their own attentional state and mental fatigue, helping users know when to take a break.

“We actually did a study at the Mayo Clinic where we saw that if you were able to take breaks at the right times, we were able to reduce stress at the end of the day by 20 percent and increase happiness at the end of the day by 70 percent.” percent,” said Alcide.

By helping people understand when to take breaks throughout the day, this insight could help address the “huge epidemic” of burnout from overwork, he said.

“It plays a little tone through your ear, like ‘Hey, it’s time to take a break’, and you can ignore it if you want, depending on how busy you are with your work task.” Where are you,” he said.

“What we see in our data is that taking a five-minute break in an important space will actually increase your focus for the next four hours,” he says.

He added that this could be especially powerful for jobs like programming, where research has shown that coding is often better in the earlier part of the day, while mistakes are introduced later in the day because developers are cognitively impaired. get tired

brain-computer interface

Headphones are an example of a brain-computer interface (BCI) – direct communication between brain activity and a computer or device. They are a non-intrusive type of BCI, unlike those that require surgical implementation into the brain.

Surgically implanted devices are more powerful, and are used for medical procedures in severe cases.

Companies such as Neuralink, founded by Elon Musk, are developing surgically implanted BCIs that would allow people to control computers or mobile devices with their brains.

Non-intrusive devices – those that don’t require surgical input – tend to be less powerful, but thanks to AI and machine learning, companies like Neurable are able to boost brain signals enough to develop use cases. are capable.

“For example, with our current system we can do things like change tracks while listening to music, as well as use it to understand cognitive health,” Alcaide said.

‘too sneaky’

The forum talk at VivaTech discussed what happens when brain data gets into the wrong hands.

A question was raised about what happens if employers hold on to employee data, and discriminate against those who need cognitive rest more than others.

Regulation of BCIs is heavy in Europe, which, according to Alcide, means that European companies working on it are going to struggle to compete.

“It’s going to take longer in Europe, where there’s a lot more regulation,” he said.

“Most of it is really unnecessary at this point because … it’s like, for example, regulating an accelerometer. That’s the level of information we’re getting from the brain.”

UNESCO’s Ramos defended allegations from governments and institutions that they were getting in the way of progress and innovation in the sector by being too heavy-handed with regulations.

She argued that someone should always be held accountable when things go wrong, and that it is the job of governments to ensure that potentially dangerous technologies are developed in a safe and responsible way.

For Alcide, the fears about what BCIs can do with the current state of technology are unfounded.

“I’ve worked with a number of government groups when it comes to regulation of brain-computer interfaces — and a lot of it is going to raise fears,” he said.

“They’re afraid that some country is going to use our technology to make incredible fighter pilots or something. But the reality of it is we’re just trying to get to the point where ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) A victim can communicate with a caregiver.

“And that’s also 20 years out before that’s effectively done, essentially.”

They argue that authorities should hold off on further regulation to allow the technology to develop. “There’s still a lot of innovation we don’t want to stop, and we’re still a long way from anything dystopia-related,” he said.

Alcide believes that technology is “really going to change the way people perceive themselves,” allowing people to take care of their mental health and their minds.

“It’s going to enable higher productivity, but not at the expense of anybody. So, if anything, people are going to be excited about the work they’re doing and it’s going to make for less stressed individuals during the day.” Finally going to be healthy.

Neuable’s technology is being applied to products from a major headphone brand ahead of its launch later this year.

While he hasn’t yet named the brand, he said they will be a headphone version of the Apple Watch, allowing users to track their cognitive health.

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