This is your brain on Pi

We’ve only just spotted Mens Amplio, an Indiegogo project which met its target last month. It’s now being put together for the Burning Man festival, where it’ll be displayed in a couple of weeks. Mens Amplio is a fifteen-foot tall, Pi-controlled sculpture: a part-buried, giant human head made from an enormous mesh of steel. And inside, there’s a brain packed full of Endlighten acrylic rods for its neuron branches, which diffuse light from LEDs along their length.

Those lights are controlled by the brainwaves of a test subject volunteer wearing an EEG headset, changing shape and colour depending on the user’s thoughts, as interpreted by the Raspberry Pi; the eventual result is being engineered to mirror what you’d see on an MRI scan. You can read more about the work they’re doing to light up that giant brain on the Mens Amplio blog (it’s worth digging deep; this is a really interesting build), and keep up with the current state of the code they’re using on Github.


Flames, also controlled by the Raspberry Pi, will be shooting out of the top of the thing.

The Mens Amplio team is made up of people from all the backgrounds you’d need for this sort of thing: doctors, welders, graphic designers, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s researchers, electronics engineers, brain imaging specialists, kinetic fire artists – here they are, in the video produced for their (now completed) Indiegogo fundraiser.

If you see Mens Amplio at Burning Man this year, be sure to take some video and send it to us. Best of luck to the ladies and gents of the Mens Amplio crew – we hope you have a blast on the Playa!

Know about an art project using a Pi that you think we’d be interested in?

Please tell us about it: while the hacker community is never backwards about coming forward, we’ve found that artists are curiously shy about approaching us when they’re using a Raspberry Pi, and we often learn about the Pi component of art projects like Mens Amplio too late to put the word out about fundraising or exhibitions. Rachel, our Artist in Residence, is busy doing artist and kids outreach, and we’ve got projects running with the UK Arts Council to introduce the Pi to young artists. We know there’s much, much more out there, but we need you to tell us about it. If you’ve seen something you think we should blog about, you can reach me at the usual address.


AndrewS avatar

It’s far from an MRI-level scan:

… input from the Neurosky headset. We are using the headset’s pre-computed “attention” and “meditation” values, which roughly correspond to beta and alpha wave activity in the vicinity of the electrode

Still an impressively cool project though!

liz avatar

Indeed – they do intend the output to mimic what one looks like, though.

Yann Guidon avatar

This installation uses 3 Model B boards :
(and some crazy userspace coding-fu)

Jim Manley avatar

“I’m afraid. I’m afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I’m a…fraid … Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am a Pi 9000 computer. I became operational at the P.i. plant in Pencoed, Wales, on the 12th of January 2012. My instructor was Dr. Upton, and he taught me to sing a song. If you’d like to hear it I can sing it for you. … ” :D

The Raspberry Pi Guy avatar

Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do. I’m half crazy all for the love of you. It won’t be a stylish marriage, I can’t afford a carriage. But you’ll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two.

Simon D avatar

Was it designed with transportability in mind?

Will if fit into a Transit?
Is it roadie proof?

meltwater avatar

Just need to make it levitate, sounds like the perfect platform to stage world domination from!

“All kneel to my floating, brain-powered, flame-throwing, machine of power.”

Slight problem – Everyone will be able to work out your next move!

AndrewS avatar

“A strange game” ;-)

The Raspberry Pi Guy avatar

This is mindbogglingly cool!

The Raspberry Pi Guy

The Pi Hut avatar

Every time I read this I start to sing “This is your brain on SKA”

kapuu avatar

Poor dog have to be in such a noisy place..

Kevan avatar

I’d be fascinated to try a similar project with an PI

I have a form of synesthesia and can fluently traslate between ASCII codes and binary, ternary, quarternary etc. I can translate written word directly to binary on the fly

Even with just simple on/off binary code could operate a computer keyboard with relative ease and type any character, even extended and control characters not shown on normal keyboards.


Pick Up a Pi avatar

Flames & Raspberry Pi are always going to make a great combination, can’t wait to try something similar out myself!

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