Are Brainwave-tracking Headbands Headed to Your Child’s Classroom?

Like something out of an Orwellian novel, tens of thousands of headbands that can read and analyze brainwaves are popping up in Chinese classrooms, letting teachers track students’ attention during class.

Photos out of Jiangnan Experimental School in Hangzhou, China show a classroom of children wearing the black headbands as they sit at their desks.

Image from BrainCo Handout

The headbands are the product of BrainCo Inc., a company born out of Harvard University’s Innovation Lab. Since 2016, they’ve won numerous awards including the Most Innovative Award at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference in 2017.

Dubbed the Focus 1, the first consumer headband released by BrainCo scans the wearer’s EEG waves to collect data on the wearer’s attention span. The data is then updated in real time on the teacher’s FocusEDU dashboard so they can monitor which students aren’t focusing and which are engaged in the lecture. The goal is to identify struggling students so that teachers can give them more attention.

Focus 1 headband from BrainCo.

Bicheng Han — CEO of BrainCo — thinks Brain Machine Interfaces (BMI) “will ultimately help humans reach their full potential,” he said in an interview. He has already received $15 million from Chinese donors to implement his tech in classrooms across China.

For now, it seems the primary use of this technology is focused on the classroom setting. Han says that BrainCo has been working with “education partners in the US, Mexico, Spain, and Brazil to implement our technology at schools,” meaning you may see these headbands at your local high school in the near future.

Image from BrainCo promotional video.

But BMI technology isn’t just limited to the classroom. “Users can use the technology to not only train their cognitive skills, but also control electronics like switching on smart home devices or controlling the movements of robots,” says Han. He sees potential applications of his headbands for “ADHD attention training, fitness and wellness, mobility, neuromarketing, and even Autism and other neurological conditions.”
The BrainCo Promo Video for their Focus EDU product.

Is this the beginning of a Black Mirror-like technological evolution that leads to telepathic text messages and mind-controlled robots? Or will our brainwaves become just another place to market and sell us the latest products and celebrity gossip?

We’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, BrainCo is focused on helping students focus and teachers teach. It seems the classroom is a perfect place for everyone to learn.