Quantified Self Meets BIg Data: A Meeting of the Minds

As I’ve written about before, I’m diagnosed ADHD. I’m not one of those “squirrel!” joking guys who is “sure” they have ADHD but have never been tested. I’ve been on meds and done a ton of reading over the years to develop coping strategies to deal with the challenges that are presented by the different way that my brain works to try and mitigate the drawbacks and take full advantage of all the gifts that come with ADHD.

One of the the coping strategies that I’ve always been very interested in is that of bio-feedback. Imagine if you could actually “see” what you’re brain is doing. Imagine that you could actually “watch” your attention lapse in near real-time! How amazing would that be? Imagine the insights that could be derived and the potential to identify potential triggers in attention deficits. ( For the record, I’ve not struggled as much with an inability to focus, so much as an inability to SHIFT focus when i need to. )

Enter the year of the portable EEG.

2014 is the year of the portable EEG. In 2013, there were at least three different projects focusing on bringing brain science to the masses that I’m aware of. 
For the record, I”m not a brain scientist and any assessments that I make here are PURELY my own very limited ability to judge. 

Emotive Insight:

This seems to be the most technically advanced of the three projects. The kickstarter project has been slow to say the least. They’ve had a few set-backs over the course of the project. But they have been fairly consistent with feedback and the company seems to have more participation in the academic community. 

I can’t make any judgement call on the actual device, as they are behind on delivery.  ( April 2013 est delivery date ).  But I have high expectations on this one. 
The SDK will probably be quite mature as I’m pretty sure they will be leveraging tech from their earlier products. 
In the latest update, they mentioned a company called Neurospire who currently uses EEG data for marketing purposes (very cool concept!). Turns out they are changing their game a bit to something closer to my heart. They just won their first round of funding to develop a biofeedback application aimed directly at aiding children with ADHD.  I’m very excited to see what they come up with and see if they come up with something that can help my kids as they learn to deal with the pros and cons of their differences. 


Melon seems to be more of a fun project. The science and tech seem to be there, but the focus seems to be more on bringing the fun. They have made some adjustments to their original, based on kickstarted backers feedback, to allow the headband to adjust from kids to gargantuan cranium size. The application is also more focused on fun, or so I’ve been led to believe. The app measures your focus, and IF you can stay focused, it will allow you to fold origami animals.  Sounds kinda funny, but I can tell you my kids are actually excited about this one. 
Imagine… Folding. Paper. With. Your. Mind.    
Yeah. I know, right?
SDK is also an unknown at this point as it’s still listed as “available soon”.
Looking forward to this one which is also on the late shipping train. The est. ETA was November 2013, but according to the latest update, we should be seeing it in late September. 


I actually got turned on to this one by @beaker.  They went the indigogo.com way rather than kickstarter.com.  I didn’t end up getting in on the funding on this one, so no deal for me.  But…  they actually shipped. 
Yup. I put in an order and it arrived 2 days later at my door. InterAxon, the company who makes muse, is actually out of Toronto, so this is one of the RARE occasions that I’ve not had to wait or pay extra for shipping to Canada! ( woo-hoo! ). 
This product just started shipping, but they already have an SDK in place, as well as apps, titled Calm, for both iOS and Android.  Being an apple-guy, I tried it out and was actually pretty impressed. Clean interface, simple for now, but the concept works. In a nutshell, the weather gets calmer when you get calmer. 
The hardware seems solid, There’s one of the sensors that I have a little bit of trouble with, but I’m not sure if that’s just more practice or something actually wrong with the unit. Only time will tell I guess. 
The SDK seems not too bad either. I had some trouble getting the Muse to connect on OSX, but that’s MOST likely because I’m running a beta of a pre-release version of a certain fruity OS.   
The Windows and the OSX install were pretty similar to be honest. The SDK is python based and requires python 2.7 ( WHY NOT Python 3????) and a few typical libraries ( numby and Scipy from memory ). Pretty well documented on the choosemuse.com website. 

Big Data meeting of the minds.

One of the truly cool things which the quantified self movement brings is the sudden  influx of contributors to datasets.  The Calm application for the Muse allows the user to share their data in a non-identifiable way back to the InterAxon servers. There’s the obvious demographic questions that get asked as part of the initial registration, 
Imagine how Big Data algorithms can be applied once enough of us start to donate the output of our sessions along with enough demographic information to allow data scientist to create K-plots and run Baysian functions and start pulling some interesting observations. 
Imagine how baysian algorithms can suddenly pull out astonishing insights when you combine the EEG readings from the Insight with the activity level and sleep patterns from the fitbit, throw in a little dash of air quality and noise pollution from the sense.  Mix it up in “the cloud” and start comparing our sanitized non-personally identifiable with other peoples sanitized non-personally identifiable of similar demographics and we start to have enough data to start pushing the envelope of our understanding of our behaviours. 
The scariest thing for me is that we might actually be able to quantity what normal actually is. 🙂  
Ok… so maybe that last one is a bit of a stretch, but it’s certainly going to be interesting watching what happens in the next couple few years as this data starts to coalesce. Data gravity starts to kick in and we have suddenly have a large enough data set for things to get REALLY interesting.
Anyone else out there donating data? Scared? Paranoid?  Anyone else looking forward?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s