Paris-based NextMind has launched its real-time brain computer interface Dev Kit and it is now being shipped for only $399. The device can translate brain signals into digital commands, allowing users to control AR/VR headsets, lights, TVs, computers, music, games and more with just visual attention.
NextMind brain-sensing device
The company is just one of many that is building neural interfaces that rely solely on machine learning algorithms. There are invasive devices such as Neuralink that is introduced by Elon Musk. In August 2020, Neuralink revealed a prototype that showed readings from a pig’s brain using a small device that is coin-like, directly implanted under the skull.
There are also noninvasive devices like the electromyography or EMG wristband. The wristband translates musculoneural signals into commands and it can be interpreted by machines from control labs. It was acquired by Facebook in September 2019, according to Engadget.
As for NextMind, the company is creating a noninvasive device, an EEG or electroencephalogram that is worn on the back of your head, where a person’s brain visual cortex is located
Sid Kouider, the CEO of NextMind, told VentureBeat that the Dev Kit would be distributed in the second quarter of 2020. But the pandemic hit and the distribution was delayed for four months.
In November 2020, the company distributed hundreds of Dev Kits after producing the first thousand units. The second back of units are now set to be produced in January 2021.
NextMind’s Dev Kit
The Dev Kit includes the NextMind Sensor, which is a brain-sensing wearable that is an adjustable headband. It also includes the NextMind Engine, which has real-time machine learning algorithms that changes the neural signals into commands.
The developers also get the NextMind SDK, which has ready-to-use Unity resources, like demo apps, tutorials and games, as well as code building blocks.
The company has raised $4.6 million in December 2018, including a $1 million innovation award from Bpifrance and investments from private contributors like Sune Alstrup Johansen, the founder of Eye Tribe and David Helgason, the founder of Unity Technologies, according to Business Wire.
The company’s connection with Helgason helped make the Unity Technologies tooling happen and it made sure that the Dev Kit is compatible with platforms like macOS, Windows 10, Oculus, HoloLens and HTC Vive.
NextMind recommends users to calibrate the device first every time it is used. It takes around 45 seconds to create a neural profile. In a few months, the developers of the device wants to remove this step.
Kouider said that getting the neural profile, they are hoping to get rid of this step and they need a lot of data to do that. NextMind is currently solving the issue and they think that in the next few months, a calibration-free procedure will be possible.
The calibration step was added to the first version of the software as a precaution. They also prefer to be conservative and make sure that the device works, even with the extra step.
NextMind plans to issue regular updates that improve the device’s learning algorithms in the NextMind Engine. Kouider said that they are going to be able to update every few weeks to even faster and more robust algorithms. He said that the hardware won’t be changed but the algorithms are going to improve.
NextMind also plants to create a boost mode that lowers the threshold depending on the developer’s use case.