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University of Michigan Innovation Partnerships
University of Michigan Innovation Partnerships

A Startup’s Journey: Harnessing Brain Activity


Ramses Alcaide arrived at the University of Michigan in 2010 with one goal in mind: to help people with disabilities engage more fully with the world.

He is almost there.

Working with U-M Innovation Partnerships, Alcaide advanced technology developed at the U-M Direct Brain Interface Laboratory and created a new startup. Neurable has developed a brain wave interpretation system that allows for uniquely precise and flexible control of devices such as toys, cars, wheelchairs, TVs and video games.

Neurable’s system involves a cap that can detect brain wave activity and turn it into action. He demonstrates the software by moving a Lego Mindstorm car, but has also controlled wheelchairs and a Nissan Versa.

“There’s a brain signal you can see in our logo, the P300. We detect that signal inside the person’s brain activity and then the item they want selected generates this brain signal every time,” he said. “It’s kind of a brain hack that can be used in many ways.”

Alcaide’s use of the university’s resources serves as a master class for other student startups on how to leverage the U-M entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Neurable received support and advice from staff and faculty at U-M Innovation Partnerships, the Center for Entrepreneurship, the Zell Lurie Institute, the Alumni Association, the School of Information and the Medical School at various times.