Brain Control

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Work in BrainLab spawns revolutionary method for interfacing with mobile devices Imagine operating…

Georgia (Jul 8, 2014)

Work in BrainLab spawns revolutionary method for interfacing with mobile devices

Imagine operating a smartphone or mobile device using only brain waves. Researchers in Kennesaw State University’s BrainLab say it’s possible, and their technology breakthrough will soon offer new hope for those with limited communication abilities.

Research at KSU’s BrainLab involves brain-computer interfaces (BCI) – an alignment of computer technology with the human neurological system. Over the past few years, their research has centered on the use of BCIs to assist those who are living locked inside their bodies, such as those individuals with cerebral palsy or ALS, for communicating and controlling their environments.

Led by Adriane Randolph, executive director of the BrainLab and associate professor of information systems in the Michael J. Coles College of Business, the research team designs and develops systems that enable individuals with limited physical capabilities to control computers and other devices using neurophysiological input.

Desktop to Mobile

Last summer, Randolph was selected to pilot the wearable technology device, Google Glass. She had big plans for her new accessory beyond its everyday use for checking email, taking photos and surfing the web. She intended to expand her BCI research to a mobile platform.

Within a few months, another key member of her research team was outfitted with Google Glass and their study took a new turn. The wireless platform opened new possibilities in working with those with limited physical capabilities.

Instead of nodding, swiping or talking to give commands to Google Glass, the research team developed a method for controlling a mobile device using only brain waves. It’s a synthetic telepathy, of sorts, where the user is able to give commands to the mobile device without touching or talking to it.

“We believe this is the first working prototype designed for the Google Glass platform. We know that selection-type commands exist using neural input, but we had to figure out how to use that in Google Glass in a way that benefits our research,” Randolph said. “We chose evoked responses which are like an ‘aha’ response that we record as surface EEGs as input signals.”

Steve Krontz, the BrainLab’s director of innovation and a marketing student at Kennesaw State, joined the research team after witnessing his own father, who was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as ALS, experience a decline in his ability to communicate and move.  

“Having watched my father go through unspeakable suffering due to ALS, a disease that eventually took his life, this has been a very personal and sometimes emotional journey,” Krontz said. “Anyone can build something cool, but to build something cool that gives someone a part of their life back that was stolen by disease? That is inspiring, and inspiration is what the BrainLab was built on.”

Future functionality

While Randolph sees the impact the research will have on those with limited speech and mobility to improve their quality of life, she said the development in using neural input – or brain waves – to control a wireless device like a smartphone will change the way all people live and function, she said.

“This is a first step toward realizing neural input to a mainstream device. Working off a simple business principle, if we can achieve widespread adoption, then the people who really need the technology will get it better and cheaper,” Randolph said.

According to Randolph, their work marks an important step in how all people interface with their technology.

“Many have thought, ‘I would love to control my phone just by thinking’,” she said. “Perhaps we will see this as an add-on feature in the not-so-distant future.”


- Tiffany Capuano; Photo by David Caselli 



A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit