Amplifier for Art, Science and Society

© EPFL - Alain Herzog


Mental Work

The Cognitive Revolution Starts Here


Employing a novel technology developed in EPFL’s neuroscience laboratories, Mental Work is a series of spectacular machines controlled by brain activity alone–a thought factory placing the human mind back at the center of our technologically dominated world.

From a technical standpoint, thought is at the core of the Mental Work exhibit. Visitors have the opportunity to experience what it’s like to control machines using thought alone via brain-machine interfaces, and it requires a fair share of concentration. Plus, anonymized brainwave data will be made available to the scientific community to improve cognitive interfaces.

Mental Work at EPFL Pavilions.

© Adrien Barakat

One of the machines at Mental Work at EPFL Pavilions.

© Adrien Barakat

Behind the scenes, EPFL neuroengineer José Millán with EPFL scientist Arnaud Desvachez and Paperboy Jorge Stamatio contemplate one of the Mental Work machines.

EPFL / Hillary Sanctuary

Welcome to Mental Work at EPFL Pavilions.

© Adrien Barakat

A visitor tries to control the machine with her brainwaves via the EEG helmet.

© Adrien Barakat

Behind the scenes, Paperboy Jorge Stamatio wearing an EEG helmet while fine-tuning.

© EPFL - Hillary Sanctuary

Mental Work also questions the relationship between human and machine, and how this relationship will evolve with technological advances. It juxtaposes the industrial revolution against the possibly imminent cognitive revolution in which human and machine are in symbiosis.

“We would like to generate a societal debate,” says José Millán, EPFL neuroengineer and co-founder of the project. “This cognitive revolution, which is about to come, may have different shapes. Which is the shape that people would like to see? Which is the place of brain-machine interfaces, if any, in the future cognitive society that we are moving towards?”