Yesterday I went to check out Burning Man Decompression in San Francisco. While it doesn’t have nearly the scope of art and sound projects as the main event, there was still a lot of impressive sculpture, good music, and fun to be had. And as always, there were incredible costumes. There were a pair of giant cardboard robots interacting with passersby, a gentleman dressed as a walking gold lamé shower, and my personal favorite, brainwave-controlled animal ears.

Yes, you read that right.

This is without a doubt the next best thing to actually being a colorful furry animal (for those who’d be interested in that sort of thing). I got chatting with the guy who was wearing these fuzzy orange fox ears, which move in accordance with your emotional state (triggered by alpha and beta brainwaves). Turned out that Nick Hoffman, the guy under the ears, was also the guy behind the ears: his company EMOKI created these anthropomorphic accessories. He was really excited to tell me all about them and show off the range of emotion they can convey. For example, they perk up when you see somebody cute, they droop down when you feel relaxed, and they wiggle when you get excited.

This blissed out lady will show you the science behind the EEG headset

Here’s how they work (from EMOKI’s website):

  1. The forehead sensor listens to the body’s electrical signal, like a microphone.
  2. The ear clip acts as a ground and reference, listening to non-brainwave body electricity.
  3. The brainwave chip takes both signals and filters out all the electrical noise from the body and the ambient environment, honing in on brainwaves from 3-100 Hz.
  4. The chip’s internal algorithms convert the brainwave data to attention and meditation scores.
  5. Depending on one’s attention and relaxation scores, the servo motors rotate and wiggle.