Controlling digital interfaces, such as telephones, through brain signals

MIT startup Pison Technology, created by Dexter Ang ’05, uses sensors to convert skin biopotentials into digital commands for phones, robots, IoT equipment, and more. Credit: Pison

Pison, created by Dexter Ang (WITH ONE ’05), allows people to control digital interfaces, such as phones, through brain signals.

Dexter Ang ’05, AF ’16 worked as a high frequency trader before his mother found out he had ELA. The next year he saw himself slowly losing the ability to walk, feed himself and even click the mouse to read the e-book, one of his favorite activities.

The progression was painful to watch, but what Ang couldn’t accept was that her mother’s physical condition could have such a negative impact on her interactions with the digital world.

“I didn’t think that connection between physical ability and digital ability was needed,” Ange recalls.

The idea put Ang on a mission that would change his life. Ten years after graduating with a degree in mechanical engineering from MIT, he returned to the Institute to immerse himself in his work on portable technologies, achieving one of the founders and a business strategy along the way. He is currently the CEO of Ang Pison Technology, which uses neuromuscular sensors to help people interact with digital interfaces.

The pison sensor is located on the user’s wrist like a clock to detect small movements of muscles and tendons and electrical signals in the brain. Pison’s software processes these signals and controls the device being sent, helping users interact with apps on their phones, manipulate augmented reality objects, and do things like communicate with robots and machines.

Pison neuromuscular sensors

Pison’s neuromuscular sensors allow those who respond first to control digital interfaces, like robots, using small gestures like finger movement. Credit: Pison

Hundreds of people have used Pison’s technology in collaboration with multinational corporations in collaboration with Microsoft, Samsung, Mitsubishi and Google. Helping people with disabilities remains the focus of the company, and Pison is also working with medical organizations and nonprofits like the ALS association.

“The effects of connecting the human body to digital systems and artificial intelligence are unimaginable,” says Ange. “We’re at the beginning of the entry – perhaps the first entry – what neural interfaces will be and how they will transform the whole world.”

A mission unfolds

Seeing Ang’s mother’s decline in health brought her back to MIT through the Advanced Studies Program. She enrolled in MIT’s Sloan School of Management, School of Engineering and Media Lab classes. Particularly attracted to the offer was a support course led by John Leonard, Professor of Mechanical and Ocean Engineering in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Ocean Engineering at Samuel C. Collins Department of Mechanical and Oceanic Engineering.

“I was really passionate about the problem [of physical decline impacting digital life]”I would go to sleep thinking and waking up. I knew the problem was based on electricity and I needed an electrical solution, and that MIT had the most successful network.”

Ang’s mother passed away in 2015 in her first semester with ASP. He took three weeks off and ended his term. Later that year, through his brother, he met founder David Pipoletta, founder of Pison, who was working on eye tracking and robotics for people with ELA at the University of Rhode Island. After talking to him about the potential to detect electricity through the surface of the electrodes, Cipoletta asked Ang to come to his home two weeks later. By then he had built a prototype.

The founders received support from the MIT Sandbox Innovation Fund and were led by Managing Director Bill Aulet as a mentor for the MIT Entrepreneurship at the Martin Trust Center. Ang spent about $ 50,000 exploring different solutions with his money.

“The tools they provided me through the MIT network, investors, and training were essential for me and Pison in the beginning,” says Ange.

Since Ang completed the Advanced Study Fellowship program in 2016, the founders have worked with several companies to develop more technology.

Pison’s current sensors detect electrical signals used by the brain to communicate with the body’s nerves, tendons, and muscles. Signals or biopotentials are recorded on the skin of the wrist and sent to the Pison phone app, which converts them into digital instructions. The Pison app may interact with other apps or any other device connected to your phone. For example, if a user’s phone also has a Google Home app, Pison’s sensors can be used to control smart home functions like lights.

When the creators built the system, they were focused on creating something that would work for ELA patients in the later stages of the disease.

“With ELA, there is a steady decline in physical fitness,” Ange says. “It’s like trying to drop a stone when you go down. My mind was, let’s think the rock is all over the hill, what would it still be like to work in that state? “

Targeting the bottom of the hill gave Pison powerful technology that could be useful in a variety of applications. Adding to the system’s massive take-up power is its hardware, which looks like a wristwatch.

“As technology became more universal, our intentions came to fruition, and the scope of our set of issues came from the ELA to the problem that Bose first wanted to work on, which is electronic consumer control, now we have robotics customers, IoT [the internet of things], and augmented reality, ”says Ange.

Fulfilling the potential of a technology

Pison’s first trade, at the end of the year, will be a touch-free control system for phones that will allow Air Force users to do things like interact with maps and accept communications. Following this implementation, Pison hopes to help factory floor workers improve productivity and reduce risk.

There are other players in this space – Elon Musk’s Neuralink startup is a well-known but well-known example – but Ang believes Pison distinguishes itself from target software and develops timely solutions for specific customer applications. . To this end, Angel could see Pison developing solutions specifically for workers in the industrial and construction, search and rescue operations, and as a catalyst for the advancement and adoption of augmented reality.

However, the company is also keen to expand its technology more widely and let customers decide on its use.

“We have our internal product strategy, initially to transform the way people interact with phones, and then to expand to other media like robotics and augmented reality,” says Angel. “But we understand that the data and the platform we have can be used indefinitely. We’re not going to put bottles in it.”

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