Tag Archives: MindWave

Enabling Innovations: human-machine interfacing

Recently, a few really interesting products have seen the light of day and they appear to indicate a pattern in a particular space, in this case medical sensor/measuring/visualisation equipment in the medical space. But the market disruption caused by these products is much broader than that.

Late 2010 David Albert introduced a cheap ECG system using simple sensors built in to a shell around an iPhone. He originally presented the system via a video which got an awful lot of attention really fast. One article I spotted about it was Your Heartbeat on an iPhone but as it wasn’t an actually available product yet (for either development or general use) I thought I’d better wait and see whether this stuff actually got to market. A year and a half later the system is not yet available for use with humans (no FDA approval so far), but there is a $199 model for use in veterinary environments (AliveCor Vet). I presume that apart from the FDA approval it’s actually identical 😉

This morning, I received a Neurosky MineWave (EEG sensor) headset in the post. See the Brain Interfacing – Finally post on my personal blog for some initial fun with it. For $150 you now get the basis capabilities of EEG at home. And not only that, you can build new applications and uses using the input stream, including controlling devices and games.

Both of these products are examples of enabling innovations. We all know that the price of things comes down over time, but what we often don’t realise is that at certain points, because of key components also becoming much cheaper, smaller, lighter, etc, things that were previously restricted to hospitals, laboratories and other expensive and specialised environments suddenly become available to “the masses”. I’m not saying that everybody will be using these things, nor that specialised expertise in the area is now obsolete – but for many simple tasks these tools are absolutely sufficient and thus a real enabler. It fundamentally changes the market (that previously only contained expensive equipment for a very limited audience). If companies in this realm don’t realise this (or reckon that because it used to be medical and sophisticated specialised equipment their market won’t change at all), they’re going to be sadly sorry really quickly.

In addition to people with simple needs no longer needing a referral to a facility with the expensive gear (low end disruption: in this case, the issue can be handled directly by a doctor without referral), new things become possible (new market disruption: in this case, at home with self-monitoring – and completely new uses of the technology). As always, I see the latter as a much more interesting space as that’s where the true innovation tends to happen. Low-end disruption is still relevant, however, as it directly affects the existing players in the market and it’s just interesting to watch whether and how companies handle this. Generally they don’t handle it, or much too late and then very badly, but I’m always willing to be surprised!

If you have more information on the adoption of these particular products, or other enabling innovations you’ve spotted, please do write in.