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A bold future for brain-computer interfaces

District 3 co-founder Sydney Swaine-Simon wants to take neurotechnology to the next level
January 27, 2016
By Chris Gunter


What if we could hack our own brains?

That’s the question propelling the NeuroTechX network and its local and parent chapter, NeuroTechMTL.

It’s also the sort of idea one might find floating around Concordia’s District 3 Innovation Center (D3).

Local entrepreneur and tech rabble-rouser Sydney Swaine-Simon, BCompSc 13, is a key player in both.

In 2012, while studying computer science at Concordia, Swaine-Simon became a founding member of D3. Now, he manages the startup incubator’s “Makerspace.”

“It enables teams to do the necessary research and development in order to develop a physical prototype,” he explains. “It gives you a really good method to generate interest in the product you’re working on.”

The hands-on approach and ethos of invention that drives D3 is evident in Swaine-Simon’s own latest venture, NeuroTechMTL.

The project has its roots in a local group called Brain Computer Interface (BCI) Montreal, which formed roughly a year ago after Swaine-Simon, current NeuroTechMTL executive director Yannick Roy, and several other active members began exchanging ideas with other neurotechnology enthusiasts around the world.

“It’s about getting people together,” says Sydney Swaine-Simon, operations director of NeuroTechMTL. “It’s about getting people together,” says Sydney Swaine-Simon, operations director of NeuroTechMTL.

“The idea with a BCI is to be able to interface your brain to some sort of system,” says Swaine-Simon, “to take a form of neurotechnology, an EEG [electroencephalogram] for example, and to then use that as a bio-input.”

The bio-input is fed into software, which gives you quantifiable information about your brain, so that you can then try to adjust your thoughts and actions accordingly. In other words, hack your brain.

BCI Montreal eventually became NeuroTechMTL. The newly christened initiative served as a catalyst in launching the NeuroTechX network, which now has nine chapters worldwide, from LA to Tel Aviv, and a new chapter in the works for London, England.

BCI technology is young and the applications are currently limited, but NeuroTechX and NeuroTechMTL exist to grow and promote the field and act as a community builder.

The local chapter holds regular meetups, hack nights and workshops, and keeps an active conversation going on its Slack channel.

“It’s about getting people together,” says Swaine-Simon. “You’re able to meet with other individuals who share the same passion, experience and capability, and then together you can develop better ideas and build better things.”

Tour Concordia’s tech incubator, District 3 Innovation Center (1250 Guy St., Suite 600
), on Fridays at 2 p.m., or contact them via email at to arrange a visit.

Join the conversation at NeuroTechMTL.


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