Viva Las Vegas: Insights from the Int Conference on Consumer Electronics and CES 2018

Anya Stetsenko, N. Nan Chu

The IEEE Brain Initiative kick-started the Brain Data Bank (BDB) Challenges and Competitions at the Pavlov Institute of Physiology, St. Petersburg, Russia, on June 26 & 27, 2017. Anya Stetsenko was one of the first participants, on the winning group, Team

Having finished her Master’s degree at the Pavlov Institute of Physiology, shortly after attending the BDB Challenge, Stetsenko enrolled in the Rutgers University Ph.D. program to continue her neuro-mathematics research in the United States. Nan Chu, who led the Global BDB Competitions invited Stetsenko to speak about her Team’s project at the International Conference on Consumer Electronics (ICCE-2018), during the Special Track TT-09. Linked to another Special Track TT-02 on “Wearable Sensors,” Stetsenko also attended presentations about sensors beyond just brain focused EEG. Troy Nagle, Casey Boutwell and Veena Misra of the North Carolina State University, put together the TT-02 program, on behalf of the Sensors Council, made an impact on the ICCE technical program.

The ICCE co-location with the CES Show in Las Vegas provided Stetsenko another eye-opening experience walking through the oldest and the largest Consumer Electronics Show space. Both the IEEE Brain Initiative and the Consumer Electronics Society have lent her support and encouragement in her pursuit of higher education. Below is her description of traveling from St. Petersburg after the first BDB Challenge event, to a technical conference and a Trade Show in Las Vegas.

Anya Stetsenko

The author during the Brain Data Bank Challenge 2017 at St. Petersburg, Russia (top), and presenting their winning project at the International Conference on Consumer Electronics (ICCE-2018), Special Track TT-09, collocated with the CES Show in Las Vegas (bottom).

Anya Stetsenko – a Speaker, the Audience, and a Spectator in Las Vegas…

The annual meeting of Consumer Electronics Society presents pinnacles of innovation and gathers tech aficionados from all over the world. This year, I was selected to visit it and learn about exciting new achievements in consumer electronics. It was amazing to try first-hand novel devices and to see the technologies that are going to shape our future.

As a neuroscientist, I was especially attracted to the new solutions in healthcare and wellness. There were many devices directly related to neuroscience or inspired by recent discoveries in this field. There were not only many wearable EEG sensors, but also neurostimulation devices. What stroke the eyes first was the tendency to make EEG devices more comfortable and aesthetically appealing. While it may seem irrelevant, such trend is actually important as it can popularize wearable EEG devices.

A more prominent trend, however, was to explore new applications for EEG headsets. Besides recreation, a popular application was therapeutics solutions for mental problems. Many devices used the idea of biofeedback when online monitoring of brain activity can be modulated by a conscious effort. There was some demonstration that such biofeedback can help treat a variety of mental problems. Examples of such approach were shown by BrainCo device for improving attention and BitBrain for treatment of depression. These methods claimed to have been tested scientifically with sufficient safety considerations. The introduction of such devices to a broad consumer audience is an important step forward to advance further refinement of the neuro-theory behind it. With these therapies becoming more accessible, it is possible to gather more data about the specifics of their effect on different populations. This would create a positive cross pollination between science and practice, with one fueling the other continuously.

In addition, there were several health- and wellness-related neurostimulation devices as well, all based on transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). I learned about some products for the first time, including Ybrain for depression treatment and Rhythm’s system for sleep quality improvement Dream. An unusual application was improving athletic training by neurostimulation, developed by Halo Neuroscience, which claimed that they could stimulate motor cortex. The reality is that the spatial precision of tDCS may not be good enough due to a propagation of current across the scalp. Another device of this kind, PlatoWork, promised to bring the right mindset using tDCS. While some of these claims are questionable, it is exciting to see the creative thought behind these devices. Time will probably filter out the unviable technologies. Also worth mentioning is a neuroscience-inspired solution for people who are recovering from stroke, MindMotion created by Mindmaze. It is a gamified training program in a 3D environment that uses neuroscientific knowledge about brain plasticity to help people regain functions lost after a stroke. Along the same lines, Neofect is a gamified biofeedback training for rehabilitation of neurological injuries using a smart glove. There was much to be discovered in a million-square-footage show in such a short period time.

There were also some other health and wellness products worth mentioning. I was amazed by the extent to which some biosensors were miniaturized and made easy to use, as, for example, blood pressure monitor H2-BP developed by Charmcare. Another trend was minimizing energy consumption by wearable sensors. All these make such devices suitable for continuous use, which in turn would allow for data aggregation to track improvements and potential issues. Directly related to this is the trend of developing personalized healthcare, taking advantage of cloud computing. Individually tailored recommendations and treatments have an enormous potential. An interesting example is Bowhead Health, a device for assessing nutritional needs and providing the right amount of the supplementation. There were also several data management platforms for monitoring health status and correcting treatment procedures in accordance with the data.

After the diverse and entertaining CES show program which I did not stand a chance to judge as which would be sustainable into the future, I transitioned to the International Conference on Consumer Electronics organized by IEEE, which gave a much deeper insight into the core of the current technological advances.

Following the same logic as before, I attended the session on “Internet of Things (IoT) for Healthy Independent Living” session, which presented non-trivial approaches to improve well-being by employing novel approaches. There were many promising ideas presented but I will highlight only a few. I found particularly interesting a system for nutrition measurement to monitor the food intake by children. Another project has developed a system for online seizure detection in epileptic patients that implemented an effective algorithm for brain signal detection and noise filtering by signal rejection algorithm. These algorithms not only showed exceptional accuracy but also allowed reducing power consumption. Another project, Our Puppet explored the use of assistant robots for elderly, allowing for an involvement other than relatives. This project showed creativity in the design of the robot, which was non-trivial as it employed retro style, which can make a robot more likable.

After that, I attended a session “Consumer Healthcare Systems”, which covered a wide range of applications. Among others was presented a system of tracking a sleeping position of an infant using 3D capturing of movement, which can help prevent a notorious sudden death syndrome. Two different projects addressed improving lives of people with paralysis, one by developing assistive robotic manipulators to help with everyday tasks and another by training people to use a wheelchair in a teleoperation mode controlling a real wheelchair, which reduces risks and anxiety associated with learning to use a wheelchair.

I also attended the IEEE Brain Data Bank Challenge (IEEE-Brain), which was dedicated to a series of competitions in brain data analysis. These competitions ignited novel approaches to dealing with an abundance of neuroimaging data. There I presented an open source software that my team created being encouraged by Brain Data Bank Challenge in St. Petersburg. Besides presentations, there was a panel including speakers with different perspectives, ranging from industry to fundamental science. Such combination created a very meaningful and engaging discussion on challenges and opportunities opened by growing data-sharing movement and open source software development.

Another session that was relevant to my interests was “IEEE-Sensors: Wearable Sensors for Health and the Environment”. Some presentations introduced new products or solutions, while others gave an overview of the current state of affairs in different fields. For example, in a talk about EEG wearable sensors, various future directions and challenges were outlined. What resonated most with me was the problem of quality of the signal detection by modern Brain Computer Interface, BCI. Among the projects presented were a helmet for safe driving that provided motorcyclists information outside their field of view and intelligent glasses equipped with IR sensors for detection of fatigue in drivers. The most outstanding presentation was devoted to sensors detecting levels of oxygen, which is an important marker of the physiological state. The online processing was demonstrated in real time when the presenter started to make very intense exercises while displaying the data on the oxygen level. This demonstration made this presentation very convincing and engaging.

A final cord in the conference was an entertaining and educating session ‘IEEE Young Professionals’, which was dedicated to the art of the oral presentation. A very creative approach to practicing public speaking was a peer evaluation by throwing flying-pig, a pink stuffed animal, in moments when a presenter makes a mistake. A funny/friendly atmosphere helped people to notice their problems and improve skills.

Attending this conference was very fruitful for me as a scientist as it created an opportunity to communicate with people from industry and learn about possible connections between theory and practice, which is not simply unidirectional. Such interactions are integral to scientific progress and technological innovations. I am thankful to ICCE organizers for the opportunity to attend this conference.

About the Authors:

Anna Stetsenko, Pavlov Institute of Physiology, RAS, Russia is a 1st year Ph.D. student at Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience, Rutgers. Her research area is Computational Neuroscience. Currently, she is modeling oscillatory neuronal dynamics of non-linear type. Her past research in Pavlov Institute involved studying magno- and parvo-cellular systems in vision, attraction errors, as well as clinical research on schizophrenia.

N, Nan Chu, Ph.D., Co-founder of CWLab International, serves as the Global Chair of Brain Data Bank Competitions, representing the Consumer Electronics Society in the IEEE Brain Initiative and Sensors Council.