Engineering student Fausya Amalh, Athul B Raj, George Mathew, and Nitin Vasanth were working in a brain mapping platform when a common friend almost became a victim of sexual harassment. The women was stuck in a situation where she couldn’t take out her phone and ask for help. The incident prompted her friends to come up with an innovation for women in distress. A year later, the students have a working prototype.
Neurobuds is a wearable, earphone-like electroencephalogram (EEG) device that acts as an interface between a user’s brain and a smartphone. The device automatically detects panic in the user by analyzing brain wavedata patterns to trigger an SOS, removing the need to physically make calls or press buttons. The project bagged the `innovation to empower women’ award at the fifth season of Accenture Innovation Jockeys held recently in the city.
Mathew, who graduated this year as a computer science engineer from the city-based Atria Institute of Technology, said, “The device uses four electrodes that go inside both ears. It samples data and feeds it to the smartphone that runs an app we’ve developed. The app then processes the data with algorithms we wrote.”
Vasanth and Raj are from the Cochin University of Science and Technology, while, Amalh is from Model Engineering College, in Kochi.
“Once a panic signal is detected, there’s a 10-second gap to dismiss it. Then, it sends out alerts,” Raj said. He pointed out that in many cases, attackers snatch the phone away. “That’s why our system sends the alert to a server.”
Much of the innovation took shape at the Center for Neurosciences at the Indian Institute of Science, where the team developed the product using 3d printing, carbon nanotubes and rapid prototype boards.
The device has undergone four iterations in the past one year. “The biggest challenge was to simulate panic. You can do it partially with virtual reality headsets or by getting people to jump. Still, it’s not real panic. We tested the device on a lot of people to drastically bring down the false positives,” Mathew explained. Besides panic detection, NeuroBuds also has sleep detection for cab drivers and general monitoring of mental state.
Raghavan Iyer, Managing Director, Technology Delivery and Innovation Council lead for Accenture India, said: “We have seen this passion and determination in the past seasons where innovations have been further developed by students and introduced in the market.”