Mind-Reading Kernel Helmets–Bringing the Brain Online?
At Aragon Research, we’re all about digital transformation for business and taking things online–but taking the brain online seems like something in the far future. Is the future now? Recently, Kernel, a neurotech company that started in 2016, announced that over the next few weeks they will begin shipping their new “mind-reading” helmets across the U.S.
“To make progress on all the fronts that we need to as a society, we have to bring the brain online,” said Bryan Johnson, CEO of Kernel, who has invested $55 million of his own money and received much more in fundraising to develop and launch these helmets.
The Goal of Kernel Helmets
Kernel helmets use sensors and lasers to gain information about the brain’s activity, blood oxygen levels, and more. The hope is that gathering detailed data about brain functions and activity will lead to breakthroughs in mental health, aging, cognitive function, and other brain-related issues. Johnson believes that “understanding, interfacing with, and improving the brain requires a technological revolution at every level.”
We are still a ways off from having these helmets widely available or affordable, though Johnson hopes that will happen by 2030. The first batch of helmets will go to research institutions. However, Kernel’s mission is to some day (not far off!) have a Kernel helmet in every American household. The vision is that eventually, Kernel helmets could be just as common as other tech wearables like smart watches. Johnson sees mass adoption of Kernel helmets as an opportunity to study the brain on a massive scale and improve the well-being of humans, and how we function and interact, overall.
The Technology Powering Kernel Helmets
Kernel has developed two helmet models–Kernel Flux and Kernel Flow. The two types use different technologies to gain insight into the brain.
Kernel Flux utilizes magnetoencephalography (MEG) technology to measure electromagnetic activity using tiny magnetometers, which allows us to see what parts of the brain “light up” during certain activities. It can be used to study and help quantify brain functions like emotion, memory, learning and more.
Kernel Flow is a non-invasive interface that utilizes optical brain recording technologies and fires laser pulses into the brain to measure changes in blood oxygenation and establishes patterns of brain activity. The technologies used in Kernel Flow are useful in studying attention and focus, performance, and more.
While the technologies utilized in Kernel helmets have been around for a while, they’ve only been available in the form of huge machines at very expensive prices–not affordable nor convenient for the average person. Having these technologies available in the size of a helmet could be groundbreaking for neuroscience.
New products and use cases for technology, like Kernel helmets, continue to bridge the gap between humans and technology. Technology is an integral part of our lives, and has continuously shown the ability to improve our well-being and how we function as a society. Now, with more advancements in technology in healthcare, there is hope for groundbreaking advancements and breakthroughs for health issues. Kernel helmets could provide insight that could ultimately lead to new treatments and solutions for things like Alzheimer’s, strokes, serious mental health issues, and so much more.