South Kensington Panorama

This year the NGNI lab participated at the Great Exhibition Road Festival on 28–30 June 2019. We have been showcasing our latest interactive demonstrator that immersed the visitors in the debate - Why do we need implantable brain machine interfaces if wearable devices exist?

The market is already overflowing with wearable devices that claim to use our thoughts and emotions to control the likes of drones, wheelchairs or virtual reality applications. These devices rely on electroencephalography (EEG), i.e. the electrical signal that can be picked up using electrodes placed on the surface of the skull. To borrow a well know metaphor in the neuroscientific community, this is like trying to understand how a football match is going by sitting outside the stadium and listening to the cheers and boohoos of the crowd inside. Clearly, to have a more detailed feel of the game, we need to get inside the stadium and use directional microphones to listen to specific areas, but while this idea seems perfectly reasonable when applied to the stadium, it becomes less so when translated back to the brain.

This year’s festival, The Great Exhibition Road Festival, was a collaboration between institutions on and around Exhibition Road and NGNI lab participated in the Body and Mind zone. We designed a bespoke interactive demo to help people understand the difference between the various types of brain interfaces and introduce the probe that we, at NGNI lab, are developing.

Great Exhibition Festival 2019 - Photos of the body and mind zone, school children visiting our exhibit and our Gigabrains!
The "Body and Mind Zone" marquee entrance (on left); Adrien explaining the need for brain implants to children (in centre); and the GigaBrains! (on right).

NGNI group members spent the weekend engaging with people on the controversial field of brain implants and everyone, from adults to children to teenagers, was enthralled by our demo.

We asked visitors to answer our “Fact or fiction?” questionnaire – dealing with myths and truths of neural interfaces – to win one of our awesome GigaBrains. We must confess, they must have been the most popular freebie we have ever given away!

Great Exhibition Road Festival 2019 - Our Demo, Visitors around our stand, and Competition Time
Our interactive demonstrator (on left); Francesca, Kasia and Tim showcasing our demo to Imperial Alumni (in centre); and the list of possible names for our demo (on right).

We also got great feedback from the visitors and help into naming our demo and create a wall full of ideas of what people would like a future brain implant to be able to do. We promise we’ll take all these suggestions into account for our next projects!

We couldn’t have hoped for a more incredible weekend, full of such genuine interest from the public and great performance from the whole NGNI group.

Great Exhibition Road Festival 2019 - Photos of Tim talking to visitors, Peilong demonstrating to a family, and our ideas wall
Tim asking questions from our “Fact or Fiction?” questionnaire (on left); Peilong engaging with a family (in centre); and the wall of suggestions for future brain implants (on right).