Power of the mind powers Auckland tech inventor

By Siobhan Leathley

MindAngel inventor and current student of engineering at the University of Auckland, Song Xing. Photo / Supplied
MindAngel inventor and current student of engineering at the University of Auckland, Song Xing. Photo / Supplied

A University of Auckland engineering student has developed futuristic software which he says will allow people make calls or send texts without even moving or speaking.

To use MindAngel, a person places a wireless hairband around their head, containing three electrodes measuring and recording brain activity. The wearer then looks at a panel containing numbers 0-9, and letters A-Z.

The band decodes these thoughts and translates them into words or actions, the same way an EEG machine does. This should give the ability to call a friend on a smartphone and talk without moving or physically speaking.

Gamers can use it to interact with video and computer games by using the technology to control characters.

MindAngel chief executive and developer Song Xing said it communicates with most electrical devices including computers, electrical wheelchairs and Bluetooth devices.

So far he has spent $200,000 researching and developing this. His scholarship from the University of Auckland and the Chinese Government paid for half; the university's mechanical engineering department paid the remaining $100,000.

To ensure this money is well spent. Professor Shane Xie closely monitors Xing's progress.

He said other groups around the world are also developing this technology, but Xing is the most successful so far.

The next step after the MindAngel band is manufactured is to move into building robotic limbs for amputees.

The artificial limbs will be connected to the MindAngel band enabling amputees to walk, run and hug again.

"I want to help disabled people stand up again.

"They think: I want to move my arm, and they can move their arm."

He will begin focusing on researching this in November.

Xie confirms it is possible the technology will be able to do this, but it will take a lot of hard work to achieve.

"It's possible, but how effective it will be will depend on the research."

Xing's interest began three years ago, when he was studying electrical engineering in China.


"I wanted to know whether there was an engineering way to find out human intentions."

He developed this further, and in 2010 started his PhD research project on this. Now he spends each day in one of the university's labs developing this.

When he graduates he plans to focus on growing MindAngel.

"I treat MindAngel as a child; I want to focus on making it better, faster and stronger."

MindAngel is also competing in the Spark 100k Challenge - a student-led initiative recognising and encouraging young entrepreneurs. Winner of the challenge gets $25,000 in seed capital and six-months' incubation at The Icehouse.

He expects the MindAngel device will sell for around $500.

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