"Neurorack." Get it? A first look at prototypes of the rack module (left) and desktop (right).

“Neurorack.” Get it? A first look at prototypes of the rack module (left) and desktop (right).

Oh, sure, you can convert MIDI and clock and DIN and control voltage. But how about brainwaves? How about jacking your noggin straight into your synths and controlling synthesizers only with your mind?

It’s not quite like The Matrix, yet, if that’s what you’re imagining. But some crafty Italian inventors/experimental musicians have already whipped up a working prototype of hardware that interfaces brainwave-sensing headsets to synthesisers via analog signal and MIDI. And tomorrow, the 26th of July, they’re putting their heads where their money is, premiering the whole system in a live performance.

The boxes are designed to work with the Neurosky MindWaveMobile headset, a headband that reads brainwaves as electrical signals on the surface of your skin. You might have seen this before, but we were able to grab a new image.

Your brain is the input; control voltage or MIDI is the output. In the works is a desktop, standalone unit, as well as a Eurorack for modulars – but the difference is form factor only; both perform the same tasks:

  • Read brainwaves (EEG) directly, across 8 bands
  • Respond to the analyses of the MindWave headset, like “Attention” and “Meditation”
  • Graphic OLED display for configuration
  • Customization: “Smoothing of the signals, trigger threshold, additional algorithms, scaling, midi channel and cc for each output are completely configurable.”

For hackers and builders, you also get a serial RS232 interface so you can get at these signals directly (output) or send commands to the hardware (input).

The desktop unit looks beautiful:

Digital rendering of the desktop unit.

Digital rendering of the desktop unit.

That mobile version of the headset is nice, too, as it’s the one that works with other devices )like your phone).

Hanging around Luglio, Italy, this weekend? (Hey, maybe one reader is.) If so, you can catch a live Deep Profundis performance using brainwaves, at Acusmatiq festival.

Or you can await this coming your way, which should happen around September.

Interesting stuff. I can imagine this having not only novel experimental performance applications, but allowing a synth to be used for biofeedback and meditation – finally, customising the sounds that result.

BI1brainterface is coming!

More – William Herrera notes in comments a 2010 project that did this with a monotron (as Synthtopia spotted). The hardware here would, of course, be more convenient, though.

This is a brainwave controlled synth i made for a mate for his birthday. The frequency of brainwaves is sent from the sensor digitally to the base station, all I have done is mod the monotron to have a cv/gate input and added a few components to the force trainer to output a voltage determined by the brain activity sensed.

  • http://www.3rev.net William Herrera

    You can do a another version of this using the “Jedi Mind” Trainer Toy and a monotron
    http://www.synthtopia.com/content/2011/02/02/brain-controlled-synthesizer/

  • davidlublin

    If you want to try hooking up the NeuroSky MindWave (the original model, not the bluetooth mobile version) to your favorite DJ / VJ software, a while back I made a free Mac app called BrainOSC for converting the results to OSC, https://github.com/dlublin/BrainOSC

  • Davide Mancini

    Hi guys!

    This is how the final working product looks like:

    http://www.sound-machines.it/index.php/bi1brainterface-product-is-here/

  • Lee S

    It would be more amazing to be able to capture the imagination, but I don’t think that will ever be possible.

    • P

      yeah, it will be possible..somewhere on the internet there was an article talking about this topic, where imagination can be transformed into videos trough different kinds of electrods on our forehead.