Research with OpenBCI

In recent years, Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs) have been steadily gaining ground in the market, used either as an implicit or explicit input method in computers for accessibility, entertainment or rehabilitation. Past research in BCI has profoundly neglected the human aspect in the loop, focusing mostly on the machine layer. Further, due to the high cost of current BCI systems, many studies rely on low-cost and low-quality equipment with difficulties to provide significant advancements in physiological computing. OpenSource projects are offered as alternatives to expensive medical equipment. Nevertheless, the effectiveness of such systems over their cost is still unclear, and whether they can deliver the same level of experience as their more expensive counterparts. In this paper, we demonstrate that effective BCI interaction in a Motor-Imagery BCI paradigm can be accomplished without requiring high-end/high-cost devices, by analyzing and comparing EEG systems ranging from open source devices to medically certified systems.


Recently, two researchers from Universidade da Madeira (Portugal) compared the brain-computer interaction among three different EEG headsets: Open Source System (OpenBCI), Enobio 8 (Neuroelectrics), and g.MOBIlab+ (g.tec). Their target was to demonstrate that brain-computer interaction throughput in non-expert users is not technology related but user related, and it can be accomplished without requiring such high-end and high-cost devices. To this end, they performed a usability assessment following the same protocol associated with motor imagery to have comparable results.

Figure 1. Sub-components of the questionnaire presented in the research for obtaining task workload among the three EEG headsets.


Accordingly to the figure above, there is no significant difference among the three headsets at first sight, but it is true that if one pay closer attention to the sub-components and their meaning  OpenBCI ends in a good position.

The authors found no significant differences in the online performance among the 3 EEG headsets. Given these findings, devices sought to have similar effectiveness, and there is no perceived difference regarding comfort, appearance, speed/ease of setup and overall workload in the system performance. Hence, the following quote:

The low-cost OpenBCI open source system is the more cost-effective BCI solution as compared with its commerical medical grade counterparts.

Therefore, it was concluded that brain-computer interaction performance/throughput, at least for the particular case of non-expert users, is not technology related, and it can be accomplished without requiring high-cost devices.


For more technical specifications, please go to the following OpenBCI pages.


Vourvopoulos, A., Bermúdez I Badia, S., 2016. “Usability and Cost-effectiveness in Brain-Computer Interaction: Is it User Throughput or Technology Related?“, Proceedings of the 7th Augmented Human International Conference, AH ’16. ACM, Geneva, Switzerland. doi:10.1145/2875194.2875244. Link.

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