A new project that forms a data visualization of brain signals in clothing has recently been showcased at the virtual Ars Electronica festival.
The robotic dress is coupled to 1,024 channels of a BCI (Brain-Computer Interface) and has 64 outputs for light and movement. The Pangolin Scales' dress components function like animatronic elements that move and light up based on the recordings of the brain waves.
The project originated at the Institute for integrated circuits at JKU (Johannes Kepler University, Linz, Austria), in collaboration with the Austrian Neurotechnology company G.tec.
Christoph Guger at the Neuroscience/Neurotechnology department at G.tec explained how these BCI's measure brain activity, using sensors placed on the head, which control devices in real-time depending on your thoughts;
"If someone imagines a hand movement, then that movement can be understood using sensors on the upper region of the brain. The technology then produces a control signal that allows you for example to control a prosthetic arm or to control any (human-like) avatar.
By using your thoughts you can move the avatar forward (left right - forward etc.) or use your prosthetic arm after you made the mental decision that you wanted to pick up a cup of coffee."
G.tec's neurotechnology developers designed the hardware components and assemble the electrodes directly on to the head. The shape and size of the components mean that 1,024 channels can be placed on to the head to give far greater resolution than previous versions.
"In hospitals or research centers, people can wear 64 of these channels so the distance between the sensors is pretty big. This allows us to figure out if the person is lifting their left or right arm, but that's it.
With 1024 channels we can discriminate single fingers from each other. So the technology can recognize if the person moves their pinkie finger or the index finger. This is something you cannot do with a standard EEG system which is nowadays used in research and in hospitals."
The dress was designed by Dutch designer and innovator Anouk Wipprecht, who works in the emerging field of FashionTech. This combines fashion design with engineering, robotics, science, and interaction/user experience design to make fashion an experience that transcends appearances.
The dress that has 64 actuators (scales) that move and light up. The BCI output can modulate the movement and the rotation of the scales and how they light and interact. So whatever is calibrated into the brain-computer interface can be recognized afterward.
So, in understanding how the EEG of every single action works, the BCI can be calibrated to produce real-time activity of what the brain is doing and control the actions in the dress.
There are 64 PCBs on the head each with 16 sensors (to reach 1,024 channels). These 64 outputs translate the received signals from the brain and visualize this data through light and movement provided by 32 LEDs and 32 small servo motors, making 64 actuators within the dress.
This results in a dress with a mechanism that functions like animatronic elements, based on pangolin scales, which move and light up based on the recordings of the brain waves.
Thomas Faseth of JKU (Johannes Kepler University Linz), where the project originated, said:
"Future applications of the project allow full wireless operation made possible by know-how of the Institute for Integrated Circuits at JKU Linz."
"The brain decodes information in very specific places. Faces, color, shapes, are decoded in certain areas, and art is activating a lot of them.
BCI technology allows us to explore unconsciousness things of the brain in real-time and this leads to astonishing results. Fascinating about the brain is that so many regions are unexplored and with newest high-resolution technology we can find new interesting functions."
This is only a prototype of course, but this technology has many more functions as the relationship between the body and technology grows closer than ever.
Designers, artists, scientists, and engineers started to combine their practices at the beginning of this century, and electronics are being tightly woven into the fabric of our physical world.
As Wipprecht said:
"Electronic systems can now be layered seamlessly onto a material or substrate such as plastic or polyester. Embedded processors and sensors for transmitting and receiving information create a vision of cultural transformation that is both exciting and disturbing."