The human brain is responsible for how we perceive and experience the world around us every second and every day. That wrinkly organ inside of our skulls is the control hub of our body: It continuously makes connections and sends signals through our bodies, which in turn allows us to learn, understand, and function.
While countless scientists have spent years learning how the brain works, there haven’t been as many efforts to harness and use the information gathered by the brain. That’s exactly what Massachusetts-based startup BrainCo is doing.
On Monday the startup presented at CES 2018 in Las Vegas, where they explained how using electroencephalography — a method that monitors electrical activity inside of the brain, EEG for short — they have developed a way to quantify people’s attention levels, or concentration at a given moment. They believe that with this data they have the power to show educators what does and does not engage students, making for a much more effective classroom environment.
“There are a couple of dimensions for improving outcomes [of education],” Max Newlon, a BrainCo research scientist, tells Inverse. “The first is quantity of time spent studying and the second would be the quality of teaching. We want to introduce a third dimension, efficiency, which we can quantify by measuring the activity going on in your brain.”
This is all done with BrainCo’s Focus 1 headband, which uses EEG to translate brain signals into a measurable attention level. This way teachers in large classrooms can get a much better idea how many of their students zoning out instead of paying attention.
That is the focus of the startup’s Focus EDU product, which was announced last year at CES 2017 and gives educators a portal that displays real-time attention feedback. This would allow for much greater insight into what kind curriculums work best for certain groups of students, instead of just sticking with one plan and hoping that they all do well.
This year they took they decided to give individuals the ability to track their attention levels even when they’re not in a classroom setting. The Focus Family gives users everything the Focus EDU provides to teachers only it lets you track your own attention levels on your phone. This will allow you to monitor how your focus holds up when you’re studying or working and it even comes with a few games to help sharpen your attention.
But BrainCo doesn’t only want to limit itself to the education sector, the company wants to change the way we interact with electronics and robotics all together.
“We’re making the invisible visible,” says Newlon. “There’s this information that is in your rain and right now it’s limited within your body in terms of accessing it and implementing it in the environment around you. What brain-machine interface (BMI) does is gives you access to both of of those things. So it’s like integrating yourself with the world around and learning about yourself at the same time.
BrainCo has been on the cutting edge of this time of technology and has raised the largest financing round in the BMI industry, at $25 million for series A funding. They’ve already recieved a $4 million order from an unnamed Chinese distribution company and are further focusing on accelerating their entry into the Chinese education market.
If they keep this pace up, the next generation of students might all be wearing some retro sci-fi headbands to school every day.