School of Computer Science

Should employers be able to track your brain data? - researchers explore wearable brain technology at Summer Science exhibition


Dr Horia Maior and Dr Max Wilson from the School of Computer Science who are leading the Summer Science exhibit

Would you share your brain data to save money on insurance? Should employers be able to track your brain data? These are some of the questions researchers from the University of Nottingham are asking visitors at this year’s Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition in London, as they explore wearable consumer brain scanners.

The ‘Brain Team’ from the University of Nottingham’s School of Computer Science are demonstrating different types of wearable brain scanning devices and gathering people’s opinons on how they feel about using this new type of consumer neurotechnology.

Max Wilson, Associate Professor of Human-Computer Interaction at the University of Nottingham has developed the exhibit, he said: “Personal brain scanners are already on the market and whilst they are still in their infancy compared to smartwatches early adopters are already starting to use them. Our research studies how people will use these devices to improve their lives, as well as exploring the emerging ethical concerns, data privacy, and social implications of the imminent future of living with these personal brain scanners.

"The Summer Science exhibition gives us the chance to investigate this directly with visitors and potential users of this technology through fun and interactive activities that we hope will make people think about how they might incorporate this technology into their own lives."
Max Wilson, Associate Professor of Human-Computer Interaction

These scanners use non-invasive Brain Computer Interfaces (BCI) and use sensors placed close to the head to monitor brain activity, usually electrical activity or non-visible forms of light. Some consumer devices are already being used to help people focus for longer and improve their attention levels.

Visitors to the University of Nottingham stand will have the chance to try out Mendi wearable brain scanning devices for themselves, which uses near-infrared light to measure the oxygen in your blood in the brain. This consumer headband style device is connected to an app that can show your score based on your level of focus when doing a task e.g a simple maths task.

There will also be a scientific brain scanner on the stand that uses the same underlying functional near infrared spectroscopy, and shows a 3D heatmap of the bloodflow in the brain – people will be able to see how this changes when they are given a maths problem to solve!

The Royal Society’s free annual Summer Science Exhibition (2-7 July 2024) is a festival of discovery showcasing the UK’s most exciting research, lectures, and late-night events – no two days are the same.

The Society’s flagship event will feature mind-blowing science, thought-provoking talks and jaw-dropping demonstrations, with more than 250 leading scientists on hand to answer questions and talk about their innovative work.

Cosmologist Carlos Frenk, Fellow of the Royal Society and Chair of the Public Engagement Committee, said: “Visitors to this year’s Summer Science Exhibition are in for a real treat. This year’s event promises to be one of our best yet. From innovative research looking at the evolutionary past of our human brains and what we can learn from our great ape cousins, to cutting-edge technology attempting to define what dark matter actually is, and in doing so, solve one of the universe’s greatest mysteries – there truly is something for everyone.

"Science is vital in helping us understand the world we live in – past, present and future. I urge visitors of all ages to come along with an open mind, curiosity and enthusiasm and celebrate incredible scientific achievements that are benefiting us all."  Cosmologist Carlos Frenk, Fellow of the Royal Society and Chair of the Public Engagement Committee

Posted on Thursday 27th June 2024

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