“Chinese Schools Scanning Children’s Brains”

I’m a fan of Harvard’s Innovation Lab. I was lucky enough to spend time there as I built the R&D team for Bridge back in 2013. Great staff, great snacks.

A company from the Innovation Lab is selling headphones that “measure brain waves” in kids, to see who is concentrating. It seems their first big test is in China.

From Chris Baynes in the Independent, an article entitled: “Chinese schools scanning children’s brains to see if they are concentrating.”

Massachusetts-based start-up BrainCo says its Focus 1 headbands can help teachers identify pupils who need extra assistance.

However, neuroscientists have questioned the devices’ effectiveness and the technology has also raised privacy concerns.

The headbands use electroencephalography (EEG) sensors to detect brain activity when the wearer is engaged in a task.

The devices were worn by 10,000 schoolchildren aged between 10 and 17 during a recent trial in China, according to New Scientist.

Teachers monitored pupils’ attention using an app which received information from the headbands. Lights on the front of the devices also show different colours for varying concentration levels, flagging to staff if students are not paying attention.

Students also played a smartphone game aimed at improving their concentration for 25 minutes at home each day.

BrainCo founder and chief executive Bicheng Han said the trial led to improved grades among participants, who also needed to spend less time on homework.

The company has signed a deal to provide 20,000 headbands to a Chinese distributor.

“Our goal with the first 20,000 devices, each of which will be used by multiple students in schools, is to capture data from 1.2 million people,” Mr Han.

However, the China study’s results have not been published in an academic journal and scientists have voiced doubts about the technology.

Russell Barkley, clinical professor of psychiatry at Virginia Commonwealth University, said any improvements were likely to be caused by the placebo effect.

I’m skeptical, too.

The Chinese may have a more tolerant attitude towards trying new technology, per the recent gene-editing in babies.

I suspect US ed tech companies will try to partner more with Chinese schools to test their products on Chinese students, particularly those that raise privacy concerns.

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