Innovations in Biosensors & Nanomaterials

I attended the Emerging Wearable Technology Group’s first meetup which featured 2 speakers from the biosensor and nanomaterials industry.

Dr. KooHyoung Lee, NeuroSky

Dr. KooHyoung Lee is the CTO of NeuroSky (the EEG-sensor technology behind Necomimi - those furry cat ears that wiggle based on your level of mental concentration)

He spoke on the topic of creating value with wearables - how we can get beyond just creating wearable technology for technology’s sake, and actually apply user experience, product design, and business models to create real value.


He shared how wearables are already emerging in the market - not just to track information, but to up performance and function. For example, SolePower, a shoe insole that generates electricity as you walk.


He shared how Neurosky approached uniting powerful biosensors with simple usability. At the time they were getting started, there were other competitors on the market that were much more accurate and measured many different types of brainwaves (vs. Neurosky only detects EEG). However, the competitors were completely unusable - you needed to apply all sorts of gels and stick things all over your head in order to get the accurate readings.

What Neurosky did was design for simplicity - trade off having 100% accurate data and a bad user experience in favor of a no-setup device that reportedly “tested at 96% as accurate as that within research grade EEGs” (Wikipedia).

They’re exploring different ways to put this device in consumers’ hands: Necomimi supposedly made $10B in revenue (did I hear that correctly?). It’s also used for “neurotoys” - mind controlled games like Star Wars Force Trainer. Doctors are starting to recommend these for kids with ADD, and it’s been used to help the USA Olympic Archery team improve their game (Wikipedia).


The team released a Neurosky Developer Kit which looks incredibly cool. You can measure:

  • Attention
  • Meditation
  • Eyeblinks
  • Brainwave Bands
  • Raw Output

Time to hack your own jedi mind tricks - here are some interesting Kickstarter projects to inspire you!

Jay Ha, Materials and System Inc.

The second talk was from Jay Ha, the CEO of Materials and System Inc. He shared his point of view on the future of wearables and the role that nanomaterials will play. He explained that while “wearables 1.0” is all about devices that you attach to yourself (think FitBit and Polar Heart Rate Monitor), “wearables 2.0” will be invisible and built into the world around you - your clothing and your environment.


He shared many inspiring examples the demonstrate the potential of nanomaterials:

  • a suit that looks and feels like a high quality suit - but is bulletproof
  • a patch that you apply to your skin that slowly releases drugs at a controlled rate
  • a foldable, flexible, and rechargeable battery (developed at KAIST)
  • integrated circuits printed on flexible polymers
  • haptic feedback technology built into motorcycle handles to provide directions while you ride
  • antivirus face mask with 20nm permeability
  • thermoelectric material the thickness of paper that generates electricity

During the Q&A, a topic that came up was that one of nanotechnology’s major barriers is scale. For example, today there’s no machine that can quickly produce thousands of nanobots. However, many nanomaterials can now be produced at scale if you have a big enough demand and budget - did someone say “$40K bulletproof superhero outfit”?

Updated 4/6/14: A correction from Dr. Lee -

Other companies had good technology to detect EEG with multi-channels. However, practically, multi-channel EEG systems were complicated and hard to use for general consumers. The multi-channel systems also made errors frequently.

NeuroSky made single-channel EEG system for easy-to-use and low price. NeuroSky also developed algorithms which were easy-to-understand.

Although it is not perfect, it is still usable and enjoyable to general consumers. We are working to improve the technology and usability till everyone can use our technology.