Is Neurocouture the New ‘Sexy’ in Fashion?

OpenBCI is a Brooklyn- based company providing open- source EEG sensor caps and BCI (brain computer interface) breadboards, other hardware, and a forum for users to share code. Open BCI’s philosophy creates user- friendly BCI that helps beginners and experts to develop new BCI tools and use an open-source feature that allows anyone to join the BCI developer community to start prototyping and coding.

The BF+DA sat down with Conor Russomanno of Open BCI to discuss the future of Neurocouture.

That’s right, Neurocouture.

Can you briefly describe what BCI is and why making it open- source is so important?

BCI stands for brain computer interface. It’s important because all of our thoughts and emotions originate our brains. Ultimately, all interactive tools, (keyboard, mouse, eye tracking, etc) are means of creating some kind of low-latency communication between our brains and technology. BCI will be the final and fastest link between human consciousness and computation.

It’s easy to imagine dystopian scenarios when thinking of the ethical implications of designing technology that connects the human brain to the Internet or computers. An open- source transparent approach where people without a lot of resources can access the technology will mitigate those dystopian scenarios. Also, innovation takes place faster if more people contribute to designing the tools and applications.

How do you think BCI can be integrated into fashion and design for the mainstream?

It’s important to understand the capabilities of the technology. The state of the art is often oversold as a tool for impractical applications of the technology. Media shows it as sleek, sexy, and easy to wear, but the technology isn’t there yet. My presentations on BCI are about bringing people back down to earth. The barrier to bringing EEG sensors in to the apparel industry is the inverse relationship between performance and wearability. Other biometric sensors paired with BCI can provide interesting data sets that correlate our state of mind and feelings with our environment and daily activities.

What would be a cool combination of biometrics with EEG?

Heart rate, galvanic skin response, and respiration are biometric datasets that are more easily accessible than EEG data. They can be correlated to emotional states, feelings, focus, stress, and anxiety. Systems that adapt to oneself or to the user can look at the way the brain responds to stimuli in real-time and use that information to augment the environment.

The data will be useful for entertainment, optimizing productivity, and avoiding negative mental states in which one would rather not be in a depression or feel anxiety.

Who is your dream collaborator for an EEG fashion project?

I would love to collaborate with Anouk Wipprecht on the Unicorn Agent Project. She is in the process of designing a 3D printed, custom- fit unicorn horn that has EEG sensors inside of it, and whenever one’s tension is high, it turns on a small camera to record what is happening. The project is inspired to help children living with ADH by recording what causes attention spikes.

What are the deeper implications of EEG and BCI in mainstream culture and fashion?

As integration of EEG and other biometrics into apparel become more mainstream, there will be a more direct connection between aggregate human consciousness, the Internet, and computation. We must design the underlying architecture intelligently to protect privacy and security. People already feel vulnerable using media with layers of abstraction between themselves and the tool.

There are some pretty cool implications, too. BCI can help design systems that are not one –size- fits –all. Individual experiences adjust over time. It’s personalizing technology.

So if you are looking to integrate Human Computer Interfacing into fashion, then BCI might not be the place to look?

BCI needs fashion to make it relevant. We need better wearable brain computer interfacing. I have a funky looking helmet that I use for demos. We need the design to be better so more people use it and the industry continues to grow.