University of Malta

Brain Controlled Selection
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Brain Controlled Music Player
Project Number: KD01OFX

The Invention

A Brain Computer Interface (BCI) system is a communication system where a person has the ability to communicate with a computer through his or her brain signals rather than using the peripheral nerves and muscles. A BCI system effectively allows for the conversion of patterns of electrical brain activity into commands to control specific equipment.

The WALNUT project is an example of how a BCI could be used to control a music-player app.  The user wears a headband with 2 electrodes in contact with the back of the head and by simply looking at the icon of interest, can select and control the music as one would by pressing buttons.




The technology allows the user to select a particular command simply by focusing their attention on the targeted stimulus for a very short period of time. A specific pattern of brain activity related to that stimulus is then automatically identified by the BCI and instantaneously translated into a signal to activate the corresponding music player command.  This enables the user to select their options without having to lift a finger!

WALNUT works in asynchronous mode, giving the user total control of the application as commands can be issued at one’s own free will, rather than at specific time instants as in cue-based systems. It can also distinguish between an intended and un-intended control signal known as idle state.  As the device only requires 2 EEG channels, it is quick and easy to set up.  

The software behind WALNUT serves as a platform, which can be easily integrated with any software application as output can be changed to any menu of options.  


Applications / Industries

This is your second pair of hands. 

WALNUT is particularly suited for runners, cyclists, sportspeople and other individuals who up to now have had to interrupt the pace of their activity to modify the music they are listening to. The technology behind WALNUT can also be applied to a number of areas including:

  • Healthcare sector: can be applied to those who suffer from locked in syndrome as well as other areas where the patient would require a hands free control
  • Gaming industry
  • User-based augmented reality for applications such as Pokemon Go, Snapchat
  • Enterprise-focused augmented reality 


Development Status

A laptop based prototype has been developed and the team is working on a commercial prototype of the BCI. A suitable headband which is stylish enough to wear but which is not over-designed (i.e. houses only 2 electrodes at the back of the head) is yet to be sourced.


Intellectual Property Status

The intellectual property is protected by copyright.


Commercial Interest

We are looking for potential collaborators to develop the technology further, particularly with respect to hardware in the form of a stylish headset. We are also interested in hearing from researchers or companies who would like to adapt the system for their specific application.


Lead Originator & Relevant Publications

Dr. Owen Falzon

Zerafa, Rosanne et al. A Real Time SSVEP Based Brain Computer Interface Music Player Application. XIV Mediterranean Conference on Medical and Biological Engineering and Computing 2016. Volume 57 of the series IFMBE Proceedings pp 173178. 

Brain Computer Interfacing [Link]


Other Information

Research at the Centre for Biomedical Cybernetics [Link]

Supported through the TAKEOFF Seed Fund Award 2014

Supported through the Malta Council for Science & Technology's FUSION Programme 2015, project number R&I-2015-032-V

Times of Malta - Local researchers build music player that reads brain activity of user [Link]

Speaker at RE-WORK Tech 2014 [Link

MedGadget - Reading Brain Waves to Control Music Player, Just About Anything Else [Link

UberGizmo - Brain Waves Used To Control Music Player [Link

Think Magazine - Moving Objects with your Thoughts [Link

Independent Newspaper - Maltese researchers build a mind-controlled music player [Link]

Singularity Hub - Researchers Show Off Mind-Controlled Music Player [Link

Neurogadget - University of Malta researchers build music player that reads brain activity of user [Link]  

Robohub - Engineers build brain-controlled music player [Link


Download summary [PDF]


Interested? Contact Nicola Camilleri or the Knowledge Transfer Office

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Last Updated: 2 May 2017

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