‘Look mom, no hands!’: HU Entrepreneur in Residence brings thought-controlled computing to life

Dave Segal was browsing through Google News one morning in 2013, when he read an inspirational article that set him on a path to becoming Harrisburg University of Science and Technology’s newest Entrepreneur in Residence.

The story Segal came across was about injured U.S. soldiers who now depend on thought-controlled prosthetic limbs, since returning home from war in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Dave Segal is pictured holding an EEG headset that allows users to control computers and more.

The article led Segal, who joined HU last week, to Google ‘thought-controlled computing.’ Surprisingly, he found that while there was an abundance of information online about thought-controlled technology that make devices move, there was nearly nothing pertaining to thought-controlled patterns that could operate computers, apps and more.

“Everything had to do with imagined directions,” Segal said. “I thought, ‘why can’t you come up with a set of directional thought commands in a pattern that controls complex input?’ Those imagined line patterns, which I call Runes, allow you to check email, launch an application, virtually anything. You could even use it for other things, like turning on the lights.”

Segal got to work.

He started by buying an electroencephalography (EEG) headset. Typically used in a healthcare setting, an EEG often is used to measure electrical signals produced by neurons in the brain. The device also can be trained to recognize thought patterns that can produce a variety of commands.

After tooling around with the EEG, and literally teaching himself the basics of EEG thought control, Segal knew there was solid science behind his idea. He went on to patent the use of imagined line patterns, or Runes, that allow the mind to control a computer with an EEG. Segal’s three-dimensional Runes are organized on a Plaque, which is like a file folder. He developed the concept from Sumearian Cuneiform, which is the oldest form of writing.

Pictured is a Naqi Crypt, which is a full collection of Runes and Plaques.

“I learned about Sumearian Cuneiform on The History Channel, and it was identical to the documentation within my patent,” Segal said. “I said to myself, ‘That is what I’m working on.’ Now that I look back, I realize that my patent is very similar to imagined Sumearian Cuneiform.”

After he patented the idea, Segal launched a startup company dubbed NAQI LOGICS to support it.

And after the York native introduced thought-controlled computing to Harrisburg University officials, the University signed on as a partner.

“Entrepreneurship lies at the heart of the University’s mission, so we are thrilled to partner with Dave and NAQI LOGICS,” said HU President Dr. Eric Darr. “What Dave is doing is revolutionary. And with the support of Harrisburg University, I am confident NAQI LOGICS will produce even more ground-breaking developments.”

It already is.

Since saline must be applied to the areas of the scalp where an EEG’s electrodes are placed, using one to manipulate a computer might not be practical for the everyday user.

That’s why NAQI LOGICS also is developing an earbud that takes commands from micro-gestures. The earbud under development can detect the smallest movements, like the subtlest movement of a nose, or the click of a jaw muscle, and use that signal to operate a computer and more.

“In real life, with your head wet with saline, EEG thought control isn’t very practical unless you’re in the medical field,” Segal said. “So instead of thought control, the earbud uses micro-gestures. We are proceeding on two concurrent paths: thought-control development and micro-gestural control.”

Since most brainwaves are as unique as fingerprints, EEGs cannot be shared to produce the same commands. Earbuds can, however, and that could later spell trouble for casinos, schools, court systems and more.

As the earbud evolves, preventative measures would have to be developed to block them in certain environments. The earbud would give users a step-by-step validation, so it could allow students to use its cues to cheat in school, and gamblers could seamlessly communicate with each other to cheat a casino. A witness under cross-examination even could secretly be told not to answer a question.

“Part of NAQI LOGICS business plan includes developing the earbud so it can be blocked,” Segal said. “As with any new disruptive technology, it could be used for the wrong applications and we want to work hard up front to prevent that. The whole world is developing micro-gestural wearables for arms and fingers. It’s an utter malpractice of the entire industry. Whether we succeed or fail, the ultimate winner will certainly be an earbud.”

A Lifelong Dream

NAQI LOGICS has been long in the making.

Since he was a child, Segal has been infatuated with technology. He wrote his first computer code after his father bought him a BASIC programming book at the age of 9. He launched his first startup company at 22.

NAQI LOGICS is the third company Segal, 41, has founded.

His first company, CyberGrad, was originally set up as the first cloud-based college service that offered online college classes to gifted high school students.

Segal partnered with Villanova University to launch CyberGrad, and the effort earned a lot of local media attention. After an admiral from the U.S. Naval Support Activity base in Mechanicsburg read an article about the company, he awarded CyberGrad a sole-source contract to create a synchronous e-learning portal for the Navy’s Enterprise Resource Planning program.

Specifically, the company harnessed a huge software platform that allowed the Navy to connect its inventory from around the globe with its accounting, human resources and sales departments. Segal sold the business to ILinc Communications, a publicly traded company now called Broadsoft, and used the proceeds to launch another start-up.

The second company he founded was a web collaboration company called Spiderweb Communications, which connected businesses to other businesses and government. After winning contracts with the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the government of China, Segal and his partners sold the company to a regional engineering firm.

That’s when he set his sights on NAQI LOGICS.

With the partnership of Robert Pullo, a leading regional Angel Investor, as well as the capital he raised from Spiderweb Communications, Segal launched into the world of thought-controlled and micro-gestural computing.

And with help from HU, Segal said he envisions EEG thought control working without the use of a monitor, or any other type of display.

“Nearly all EEG technologies use some form of a cursor, a monitor or GUI in general,” he said. “You should be able to control devices if you are not looking at a display. I know without a doubt that it is possible. We aren’t there yet, but it’s all covered in our patent.”

A co-founder of NAQI LOGICS who regularly works with HU introduced Segal to the University. And Segal is excited about the possibilities ahead.

“This all came about within the last few months. HU has been very supportive from the start, and there is material, and expertise support here,” Segal said. “There are a number of faculty here who have experience in brain-computer interfaces and wearable technology, as well as students.”

“There really are a lot of brilliant professors here,” Segal continued. “I’m just an idea guy. I like to be around these smart people. I just wish I could hang around the professors more without bugging them. The big value that HU brings to the table is the brain trust of their faculty and students.”

For more information about NAQILOGICS, visit www.naqilogics.com.

About Harrisburg University

Accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, Harrisburg University is a private non-profit university offering bachelor and graduate degree programs in science, technology, and math fields. For more information on the University’s affordable demand-driven undergraduate and graduate programs, call 717-901-5146 or email, Connect@HarrisburgU.edu.