Thursday, January 15, 2015

Tan Le, Measuring Brain Activity: Second Day Keynote at #ATDTK

These are my live blogged notes from the second day's keynote at ATD TechKnowledge, happening this week in Las Vegas. Forgive any typos or incoherencies.

Tan Le, Emotiv Technology (building brain-based computer interfaces), bio-sensing devices that track how the brain responds.

In the Bay Area (San Francisco), a huge rate of change allowing scientists and innovators to tackle new problems. Possibilities that arise at the intersection of cloud computing, big data, mobile devices.

Man's merger with machines. This sounds scary. In the future, most of us will be waring some type of bio-sensing device (that records our movements, our health, our moods). Wearable devices that track personal metrics.

What's missing now: devices that help us track our cognitive, behavioral, and mental health well-being.

Tan Le left Vietnam in a boat as refugee. Ended in Melbourne and knew that she wanted to make a difference and have a purpose. Dreamed of being able to control things with her mind, Star Wars style. "Use the force, Tan."

10 years ago she got back to this. To do something meaningful, that would fire her heart, and captivate her for many years to come. She gravitated to learning about the brain. Its marvel and mystery...

The human brain is an amazing machine that continually reprograms and rewires itself according to how we use it. It's the most adaptive organ in our body; it changes in both positive and negative ways depending on how we use it.

And yet scientists have little opportunity to watch the brain outside the lab.

EEG -- the process of observing brain waves. The conventional EEG requires a dedicated technician, hair gel, a hair net, and minimal movement -- so it's a pretty artificial environment.

With advances in technology, we've got smarter and better and smaller devices. High resolution, multi-channel EEG. The user just needs to put it on.

OMG: I got to go up on stage and try the device and I made a flower open on a computer screen! 

Just call me Jedi Master.

Photo credits: Dan Steer and JD Dillon via Twitter

Some examples of what people are doing with it:
Attention powered cars -- it goes when you're paying attention and slow when you're not. ( - learn more about the effects of attention and distraction on the road.

Getting metrics around engagement, focus, attention.

Doing studies at ASU -- looking at emerging software to see how they can engage in meaningful ways. How do they move social engagement into the learning space? To create an online dynamic that's typically in an in-person environment.

See what these guys are doing: Varier Brain Design (designing chairs to improve kids' attention and focus).

Working with disabled children and adults -- for people who can't move or talk -- giving them the ability to communicate -- giving adults the ability to create music using one instrument: their minds. See more on that project here: (really inspiring and moving!)

Making brain measurement easier and more affordable. Providing ways for developers to innovate. Democratizing the space around brain measurement. To empower people to better understand their own brains. Their goal is to get this out there as prolifically as possible -- hundreds of dollars and not thousands. ($299 for the latest model!)

You will be able to use the device and get data on your engagement and attention level while doing certain activities.

Development kits are available. Looking for new ways to use and apply the technology in new and useful ways.

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