Awesome New Flexible BCI

Wow! Yet more awesomeness: stick on body electrodes.

I’ve been fiddling around with Brain Computer Interfaces, Body Sensors, and Wearables for quite a while, so I’m very excited by this development from the amazing wizards in our local materials lab.

(“We are not worthy!, We are not worthy!”)

Applying flexible, skin attached sensor technology to the problem of unobtrusively catching brain traces, this group has developed light, rugged electrode to attach to the ear and neck. These electrodes are far less troublesome to wear, and designed to survive ordinary life—opening the way to whole new investigations and applications.

Photo: John Rogers/University of Illinois

Their paper (extremely detailed) points out that a key to this technology is the flexibility of the sensor. Each ear is a complex surface, and the sensor needs to conform to the skin snugly. Other crucial properties are light weight, to the point that the wearer can forget it is there, and water resistance (sweat, rain, bathing).

These new sensors are rugged and comfortable enough to wear for two weeks at a time, compared to no more than hours for other technologies. As noted by Charles Q. Choi for IEEE Spectrum, the sensors are suitable for most normal activities, so we can contemplate long term studies, and real BCI.

Well done, indeed!

From my admittedly inexpert reading, I don’t really understand how the signals are transmitted to the processing system. However the rest of the system is configured, it will need to be light and water proof as well, or the sensors will be kind of moot. (E.g., using these sensors while swimming will need some kind of waterproof data transmission and capture—but boy would that be useful!)


  1. Norton, James J. S., Dong Sup Lee, Jung Woo Lee, Woosik Lee, Ohjin Kwon, Phillip Won, Sung-Young Jung, Huanyu Cheng, Jae-Woong Jeong, Abdullah Akce, Stephen Umunna, Ilyoun Na, Yong Ho Kwon, Xiao-Qi Wang, ZhuangJian Liu, Ungyu Paik, Yonggang Huang, Timothy Bretl, Woon-Hong Yeo, and John A. Rogers, Soft, curved electrode systems capable of integration on the auricle as a persistent brain–computer interface. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, March 16, 2015 2015.

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