NASA crowdsources its MindShift software to stimulate inventors and innovators

Edison Nation has been selected by NASA to manage a search for entrepreneurs to innovate using its biofeedback MindShift technology. Will it produce the next big thing?

Langley Research Center Director Stephen G. Jurczyk.
Image: NASA

NASA is known for its advances in the type of technology that took the US to space, but it is also a software innovation powerhouse.

One such NASA creation is MindShift, a video game-esque technology that provides biofeedback scores to the user on measurements of attention and focus. Now, NASA wants to crowdsource this technology to entrepreneurs and innovators to see what they can do with MindShift.

NASA recently announced that it was partnering with Edison Nation, an innovator community that helps bring intellectual property (IP) to market, to reach out to the public to see what applications they can come up with for certain NASA technologies, starting with MindShift.

According to the press release, "the new program will identify the most promising uses for each technology--and will share any future licensing royalties with those inventors whose ideas are successfully commercialized."

MindShift was initially created by Alan Pope, Chad Stephens, and Nina Blanson; all of NASA's Langley Research Center at the time. Pope, who has a background in engineering and psychology, initially worked on a video game for the original Playstation that was used as a treatment for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), which later became the foundation for MindShift.

The original concept for MindShift was a videogame that would provide biofeedback. According to Blanson, MindShift uses the Nintendo Wii and its videogames as a platform for the technology, using the Wii games to send the biofeedback to the user. It was initially used to help people such as pilots and air traffic controllers manage stress and outside influences.

"MindShift adapts a person's input to a video game or computer simulation based on the player's psychophysiological state," the press release said. "Using wireless motion-sensing and body gesture technologies combined with physiological sensing such as heart rate, muscle tension and brain wave activity, the technology can not only add a new level of interest to video game systems, physical therapy and/or athletic training systems, but also help users actually improve their responses to stress, anxiety and loss of concentration. In effect, MindShift can help train users to stay in the 'zone' so often cited for optimum performance."

Edison Nation, NASA's partner in this program, was started so that companies could have a go-to partner to source new innovations in their vertical. Todd Stancombe, president of Edison Nation, said that Edison Nation works as a complement to the research and development workforce of the company.

On a daily basis Edison Nation has an average of 41 pieces of IP assigned to them. Stancombe said Edison Nation is trying to "align that intellectual property with companies in the industry that are looking for some sort of competitive advantage in the form of innovation."

Jennifer Viudez, who works in the technology transfer office at NASA Langley, said that partnering with Edison Nation presented a unique way to tap into an unused market.

"It's part of NASA's charter to disseminate our technologies as widely as possible; and Edison Nation brings a really large community to the table, a community of inventors," Viudez.

Stancombe is hoping that this is just one of many pieces of technology that Edison Nation can partner with NASA on. He said that once they receive the submissions, his team goes through all of the submissions and narrows the list down only to the ones that meet the criteria. Stancombe said that they do not narrow the list down any further because it takes other eyes to see value.

"You can't be smarter than the market. If you attempt to be, sometimes you miss out on some real opportunity," Stancombe said. "When I say that, somethings that may not look that appealing to us, to somebody in that space with more knowledge, that really has lived in a particular vertical, may have a different opinion."

In building the MindShift technology, Stephens said that the team relied heavily on maker technology maker technology, and commonly-available products such the NeuroSky MindWave EEG headset.

"We use off-the-shelf microcontrollers like the Arduino, or some other variant of microcontrollers, and we use the microcontroller programming languages to interface with different pieces of hardware," Stephens said.

The team at NASA behind MindShift doesn't have a specific idea for how they want to see the technology implemented, and they are excited to see what the public can do with MindShift.

"The thing that often catches people off guard is an awareness that some of the greatest inventions of our time have been inventions that were made by ordinary people," Stancombe said.

The submission portal closes August 4, 2014. Those interested can submit their ideas here.

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