Can the translation of brainwaves into physical vibrations help support understanding?Brainwaves are mysterious and difficult to interpret. Building on the success of turning EEG data into sound and music, we’ve translated EEG into a head-to-head vibration experience.
What happens when you play brain waves into your brain? This question arose while doing research on musical mind reading which is centred around theories of neural entrainment. Neural entrainment involves the synchronisation of brain waves to external stimuli. So, for example, stimulating a person at 40Hz causes an increase in energy at this frequency of the the brainwaves, as measured by EEG (Electroencephalogram). EEG data at first always looks like a bunch of intelligible squiggly lines — so why not make it easier to read?
One way to translate EEG data into visual imagery is to transform the data into a .wav file and look at the spectrogram. As you can see in the image below, one can easily observe interesting events happened over time. But, the big benefit of transforming EEG data into .wav files is that you can listen to them!
What do EEG waves sound like?As neural entrainment theory suggests, could listening to EEG cause resonant brain waves? Might we be able to subconsciously “hear” other people’s thoughts? Well, no not really. As you can hear below, EEG sounds just like you think it would: noise. But, one reason the noise is so uninterpretable is that the frequencies involved are so low. The most dominant brainwave power is around 10hz: much below the normal range. But while we can’t hear frequencies that low, we can feel them!
So, the next step was to turn the EEG waves into tactile vibrations. We sent the audio through two precision Lofelt L5 voice coil actuators (lofelt.com). Then, we attached the actuators to an elastic headband so we could pipe the vibes directly into our skull, for maximum effect. The result? Blurry vision and some weird “after-vibrations”.
Sadly, this first attempt did not allow us to directly experience another’s thoughts. Yet, this paradigm sparks some interesting thoughts. Wouldn’t it be great to go on Spotify and vibe on your favourite brain waves? Think about emulating the brain waves of Leonardo DiCaprio as he is acting, Beyoncé while she is singing, LeBron James when he slams a dunk or Barrack Obama during a speech.