Orbityl’s earbuds can detect mental states as well as a few distinct thoughts — after a lot of calibration. Co-founder Kristina Pearkes demos the startup’s prototype. (Orbityl Photo) What if you could control the volume of your headphones with a thought? Vancouver, B.C.-based startup wants to make that happen with a brain-computer interface that looks like an ordinary pair of headphones. The startup is currently partnering with a headphone manufacturer to make a product that can sense a user’s mental state — i.e. whether they’re awake, asleep, and how alert they are. That’s the first application, which works by sensing the change in voltage in the brain over time. They haven’t yet disclosed the identity of the hardware maker. The more ambitious plan is to use machine learning to decode thoughts. Orbity co-founders Sean Kaiser and Kristina Pearkes. (Orbityl Photo) “A lot of the research that we’ve done is in brain-computer interface applications — looking for discrete thoughts that an individual is having as a mechanism to be used for control [of a device],” said Orbityl co-founder . The startup, which first launched two years ago, is working out of the VentureLabs accelerator at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. Orbityl raised around $120,000 from the Next 36 program in Toronto and the Highway1 accelerator in San Francisco, and it’s looking to add team members in the coming months. Orbityl plans to start small, training its algorithms to recognize basic commands. For instance, if you’re listening to music, you might think “right” to skip a track or “up” to raise the volume. Both Kaiser and co-founder studied at McGill University in Montreal. Pearkes brings the electronics hardware knowledge and Kaiser is the machine learning expert. Right now, their prototype can recognize basic thoughts from Kaiser’s brain, but it struggles with other users. “One of the challenges in developing this stuff is that you need a lot of examples to train the algorithms,” Kaiser said. “The calibration time is very high for other individuals to use, so that’s where a lot of our research is going right now.” Brain-computer interfaces are a longtime sci-fi moonshot, but there are signs that the tech might be moving out of the experimental phase. Earlier this month, Mark Zuckerberg revealed that . The FDA last month on brain-computer interfaces for medical applications. And Elon Musk’s secretive Neuralink venture, the subject of an from the Wait But Why blog, is exploring the space. Mind-machine ambitions aside, Kaiser says there’s also plenty of value simply making mental state detection easier. Doctors and researchers often use an electroencephalogram (EEG), essentially a bunch of electrodes attached to your head, to monitor brain activity. Kaiser thinks that a more practical device could make it easier to do some kinds of research and testing. “We started by looking at sleep. So we were looking at these EEGs and we saw this issue in sleep monitors. You have to go to a clinic, and you have to get these things set up. And it was a big barrier to a lot of individuals that created a lot of waiting time,” Kaiser said.
, but already the Korean tech giant has revealed its entire upcoming range of wearable devices that will seemingly be unveiled alongside the Galaxy S10. That’s because the company’s was uploaded today with support for a range of unreleased products which include wireless earbuds, a sports-focused smartwatch, and a new fitness band. — and — the new wearables include a Galaxy Sport smartwatch, fitness bands Fit and Galaxy Fit e, Galaxy Buds, Samsung’s take on Apple’s AirPods. The devices have all been teased in various leaks in recent weeks but this confirmation from the Samsung app, deliberate or inadvertent, appears to all but confirm their impending arrival. That said, we really can’t tell too much about the respective devices based on the app, which just shows basic renders of each device. Still, that might just be enough of a tease to general a little more interest in what promises to be Samsung’s biggest consumer launch event of the year. The Samsung unveiling comes days before Mobile World Congress, the mobile industry’s biggest event of the year, kicks off — so expect to see new product launches coming thick and fast over the coming weeks.