Mental Work: An art+science project on brain-computer interfaces


Brain Machine Interfaces (BMI) offer a new, intriguing possibility for human/machine interaction. Although we are still years ago from practical BMI applications, the possibility of direct communication between minds and machines generates both hope and fears in society. Through an artistic experience Mental Work provided visitors the opportunity to try state-of-the-art BMIs, getting acquainted with the current state of the technology and reflect on its potential future implications.

Mental Work (c) Mental Work

From a technical standpoint, thought is at the core of the Mental Work exhibit. Visitors have the opportunity to experience what it’s like to control machines using thought alone via brain-machine interfaces, and it requires a fair share of concentration. Plus, anonymized brainwave data will be made available to the scientific community to improve cognitive interfaces. Mental Work also questions the relationship between human and machine, and how this relationship will evolve with technological advances. It juxtaposes the industrial revolution against the possibly imminent cognitive revolution in which human ­and machine are in symbiosis.

The exhibition has taken place in Lausanne, Switzerland (October 2017 to January 2018) and San Francisco, USA (May to July 2018) allowing more than 800 people to have first-hand experience with these technologies. This activity allowed not only provided a large group of naive people the opportunity to learn about and try BMI systems, but also provided a large dataset on neural activity that is currently being analysed.

This exhibition was also the center of a panel on new technologies at the South by Southwest festival (SXSW) 2018. SXSW is one of the most famous festivals on technology, film, interactive media, and music.

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