What just happened? Imperial College London researcher Ildar Rakhmatulin is asking for money to manufacture a cheap, accessible and multi-purpose brain-computer "interface." Rather than drilling a hole in some poor monkeys' skull like Neuralink, Rakhmatulin's project is designed around a much more mundane (and safer) extension board for Raspberry Pi.
PiEEG is an open source design for an affordable yet precise reader of brain bio-signals; an EEG, EMG and ECG scanner of sorts that doesn't spread diseases to reach its goal. To make PiEEG, Rakhmatulin recently started a crowdfunding campaign asking for $ 4,000. At the time of writing with just 14 backers and 38 days still to go, the campaign has already overcome that goal and is 135 percent funded.
PiEEG will provide an extension board (also known as a "shield") for a Raspberry Pi 3 or Raspberry Pi 4 board that will be easy to work with and compatible with different types of electrodes. The shield is designed to be usable by anyone, as interested users would just need to connect the electrodes and run a Python script to begin measuring and recording bio-signals coming from the brain.
The board can be used to process bio-signals in real time, the researchers say, and it is intended to help developers both learn about neuroscience and experiment with signal processing, filters, and machine learning. The signals captured with PiEEG can serve different purposes for scientific, educational or even entertainment applications such as smart home control, gaming, robotics, virtual-keyboard input or "even DIY polygraph experiments."
Thanks to the affordable Raspberry Pi board the project is based on, PiEEG will be much cheaper compared to other DIY bio-scanning devices. The researchers are estimating a maximum $350 expense for the hardware, while the software side of things is completely open source. The official GitHub repository provides source code, design files, datasheet, and project examples, and anyone can customize PiEEG however they need thanks to the General Public License (GPL) v3.0 open source license.
Rakhmatulin already created a low-cost brain computer interface for "everyday use" in the past, but the project eventually became too expensive because of the chip shortage. A Raspberry Pi is considered affordable by most standards, and the PiEEG shield itself should have a cost between $250 and $350. The researcher has already demonstrated how PiEEG works by controlling a toy robot with just blinks.
The potential for PiEEG-related application is much greater, Rakhmatulin said, as the device can be employed in different industries and applications while data processing can be done in Python, C and C++.