Why wear stationary cat ears from your local Halloween pop-up shop when you could wear a pair that moves in accordance with your state of mind?
Jazz Dimauro, an artist and “practical technomancer,” has designed a pair of cat ears that move and express emotion depending on the wearer’s attentiveness and mental relaxation. This is achieved by using something called a MindWave headset, a type of portable EEG biosensor, to pick up on the wearer’s state of mind and send data via wire or Bluetooth accordingly.
Taking a touch of inspiration from the original concept for Necomimi brainwave cat ears, Dimauro elected to have the ears move on a single axis of rotation in order to minimize the chance for commercial failure. Dimauro realized after a few iterations that they’d have to mount the rotational motors (called servos) to the MindWave headset band, which they modeled in the 3D CAD software Solidworks. They then designed and 3D printed custom ears to fit the band using a MakerBot CupCake, a favorite among 3D printing enthusiasts for its rapid prototyping abilities. The ears would be controlled by an Arduino Nano, a type of single-board microcontroller, which would receive signals from the MindWave headset through an RF USB dongle.
Controlling the ears with one’s state of mind, however, was another issue entirely. Dimauro chose to isolate two variables detected by the MindWave headset, “attention” and “meditation,” and use each variable’s 1-100 value to determine the ears’ animation. After manually simulating different brain states, Dimauro connected the MindWave and Arduino to test in real-time. The ears successfully shifted position based on the wearer’s attention and meditation levels; for instance, a very high attention level resulted in a randomized wiggle animation to express interest.
“The design intent was that, if the wearer’s concentration lapsed, the ears would drop to the sides, like a sad anime cat,” Dimauro says in a blog post detailing the project. “When the wearer focused, the ears would stand to attention.”
Dimauro began “Project Catgirl” in 2011 but only just brought the design public. Dimauro produced several iterations of the cat ears throughout the duration of the project, changing the ears’ shape and their power source until they could comfortably be worn in public.
If sharing a glass of wine with your cat or giving a barbed “tongue“wasn’t previously enough to relate with your feline friend, maybe wearing these will help. Maybe.