Student start-up creates brain-scanning headphones

Audio posted April 27, 2017 in News by Matt Katz

Some people say there is a specific song, perfect for each and every moment. Penn State start-up Musical Minds has finally found a way to ensure your music always matches your mood by turning your brainwaves into soundwaves.

The company, started by Alex Patin, creates headphones called “Trills” that scan your brain and make recommendations to motivate, focus, uplift and relax.

In addition to Patin (junior-computer science), the Musical Minds team consists of Michael Gehrsitz, Allison Rhodes (senior-marketing), Chloe Melnick (junior-engineering sciences), Dhurv Boahra (junior-mechanical engineering), Noelle Ferrara (junior-finance), Dan Wallace (sophomore-computer science) and Dan Gao (sophomore-computer science).

The headphones utilize dry contact sensors to scan your brainwaves, which are then assessed using algorithms that will provide song recommendations, Patin said.

The sensors detect small electrical fluctuations in the brain which are associated with different moods, then track changes over the course of a song so that it can make better recommendations in the future, Patin said.

The headphones also use an app, which connects to your Spotify, Google Play Music, Deezer or Apple Music account via Bluetooth, which allows the headphones to access the entirety of the apps library when making recommendations, he said.

“This has definitely taught me more than any number of years in school could ever teach me,” Patin said. “It’s become my primary source of education. “I’m basically doing everything I would wind up doing in school, through this.” He added that being passionate about their project has helped them greatly in their education.

However, inventing a new product and starting your own business is no small task as a college student.

“It’s sometimes difficult to balance our deadlines and goals as a company with things that come up in school,” Patin said.

On top of creating a new invention and a new business, Patin said the team had to be resourceful in recruiting and finding funding.

While at the career fair during the fall semester, he said they noticed one company never bothered to show up. In an unorthodox move, the small team set-up in that company’s spot and presented themselves like every other company in attendance. By the end of the day, they had received over 100 applications. They ultimately recruited a few of those applicants who are still with the team today, Patin said.

Despite difficulties, the team maintains a positive outlook.

“We’re definitely having fun,” Gehrsitz (junior-mechanical engineering) said. “We get to socialize and also do work.”

Musical Minds is still being developed. While the app and headphones are fully functional, Patin said they are still looking for funding to expand the project.

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