Singer Matt Bellamy has invested in a British start-up which is developing a brain-sensing headband

A British start-up developing a brain-sensing headband has secured $5m in funding from Silicon Valley venture capital firms and investors including the frontman of rock band Muse.

London-based MindPortal says it has developed a headset that uses light signals to measure brainwaves in a way that is up to a hundred times more accurate than EEG devices, which use electrodes to detect activity.

It says the headsets, which it hopes to start making in 2023, could be used to control virtual reality software, robots or drones. Ultimately, the company claims it could augment the human mind by altering brain activity with software, changing perception or improving memory.

The company, founded by former medical students Ekram Alam and Jack Baber, has raised the money in a funding round from education-focused venture firm Learn Capital and Kleiner Perkins, a top venture firm that backed Amazon, Google and Twitter.

Other investors include Muse’s lead singer Matt Bellamy, Fitbit’s founder James Park and Julie Zhou, a former Facebook executive. The investment, which values MindPortal at $20m, comes amid growing interest in “brain-computer interfaces”, technology that reads brainwaves to manipulate software.

A concept MindPortal device

Credit: MindPortal

Elon Musk’s Neuralink recently demonstrated a monkey controlling a videogame using a chip implanted in its brain, while prominent tech investors Peter Thiel recently backed Blackrock Neurotech, which is working on its own devices. Facebook is also experimenting with hardware that detects nerve signals to move objects in video games.

Mr Alam said the company was planning to launch a device to developers by the end of 2023, with a version available to consumers later. He said he expected the “sweet spot” for such a device to be between $300 and $600. He said that unlike Neuralink, which will require surgery to install, the headband would be non-invasive.

“What we want is a tool that anyone can own, use it, wear it, and the device understands your thoughts, and then it delivers what you want,” Mr Alam said. He said later generations of the device would be able to stimulate parts of the brain, creating simulations or allowing telepathic communication.

Rob Hutter of Learn Capital, said: "MindPortal is pursuing what some would call the holy grail – namely, a portable and noninvasive platform that samples brain activity at high spatial and temporal resolution, a technical feat that could unleash the potential for a dramatic improvement in productivity across work, play and life." 

Mr Bellamy said: “If I could change songs or radio stations in my car without having to take my eyes off the road and without having to argue with an AI who cannot understand my accent, the world would be a safer place.”