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Students visiting a mobile EEG workshop

Ac­tively con­trolling tech­nical sys­tems only by one’s thoughts seems like sci­ence fic­tion. But in fact, this is al­ready possi­ble by so called brain-comput­er in­terfac­es (BCIs). The chal­lenge is to move the tech­nology out of the lab into real world set­tings. Flori­an Schönleitner and Mert Keser, two Neu­roen­gineer­ing Master stu­dents were invit­ed to the first mBrainTrain work­shop on mobile EEG in Bel­grade, the beau­tiful capital of Serbia. 

Student report by Florian Schönleitner

Each person is dif­ferent and so is its brain activi­ty. What­ever we do, wher­ever we are, we are always influ­enced by the world around us. This in turn affects our mood, our expe­riences and finally our brain activi­ty. In scien­tific set­tings, this can be prob­lemat­ic as many uncon­trolla­ble varia­bles harden the inter­preta­tion of results and limit the trans­ferability to real world set­tings. At TUM, how­ever, re­search isn’t done for its own pur­pose but in the end should lead to tech­nolo­gies which impact our socie­ty and change it for the better. Thus, bridg­ing the gap be­tween sci­ence and socie­ty by mov­ing tech­nolo­gies out­side the lab into real world setting is a key chal­lenge.

I am sup­port­ing CyberTUM project for quite a while now. Under the um­brella of CyberTUM stu­dent teams are pre­paring for the Cybathlon. The Cybathlon is a com­peti­tion by ETH Zur­ich, in which sta­te-of-the-art tech­nical assis­tance sys­tems are used to sup­port people with physi­cal disa­bilities com­pleting every­day tasks. This com­peti­tion makes this aspect very con­crete, as a brain-comput­er-inter­face must work relia­bly in daily life to be useful. Only then, they will be ac­cepted by (motor im­paired) users and can finally be an im­provement to their lives. In the CyberTUM team, we are active­ly work­ing on this transi­tion. Thus, my fellow stu­dent from the Elite Grad­uate Pro­gram "Neuroengineering" Mert and I joined the first mBrainTrain work­shop on mobile EEG in Bel­grade (Ser­bia) to get to­gether with ex­perts in the field.

Besides debat­ing about scien­tific ques­tions, we of course also en­joyed the culture and night­life of Bel­grade. The work­shop took place in the mid­dle of the histor­ic city center with all its deli­cious restau­rants and old build­ings - to the Bel­grade For­tress it was just a 5 min walk. The fare­well party at the Beton Hala, an accu­mula­tion of mod­ern bars and clubs direct­ly at the prom­enade of the river Save, con­cluded the work­shop and of­fered a nice oppor­tunity to get in touch with all the other people on a less formal lev­el.

Looking back

After the two-day work­shop, we are back in Mu­nich with a lot of new in­sights about mobile EEG, an in­creased net­work of ex­perts in the field and last but not least lasting im­pres­sions from a lovely city at the edge of Eu­rope. Of course, we also will use the new knowledge in our CyberTUM team to im­prove the per­for­mance of the BCI system that we will then use in the final com­peti­tion in May 2020 in Zur­ich.

Text: Florian Schönleitner, Elite Graduate Program "Neuroengineering"