Mental Work

Breakthrough Brain-Computer Interfaces Developed By Swiss Federal Neuroscience Lab – Public Invited To San Francisco’s Mental Work Showroom Opening On May 17, 2018 – Free Demonstrations To Be Offered And Exclusive Licensing Opportunities To Be Revealed  

Nearly two-and-a-half centuries after James Watt launched the Industrial Revolution with the development of the steam engine, exponentially increasing the amount of power in human hands, a leading Swiss university has developed a set of powerful machines controlled by operators’ brains. On May 17th, this Mental Work technology will be made available to industries worldwide through an exclusive American showroom at swissnex San Francisco, thanks to generous support from the Bertarelli Foundation.

Exploiting breakthrough interfaces developed at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) by Professor José Millán, the Swiss National Science Foundation-funded technology is the first dedicated to the long-envisaged Cognitive Revolution. Over the past six months, the equipment has been successfully tested on more than five hundred workers at the EPFL-based Mental Work factory.

“The factory’s brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) detect neural signals through workers’ skulls,” says Millán, who serves as chief scientific officer. “Algorithmic analysis of these signals transform cognitive activity into physical action.”

According to chief visionary officer Jonathon Keats, the use of these new technologies was inspired by history as much as science. “The impact of the Industrial Revolution was decidedly mixed,” he asserts. “Many able bodies were put out of work because industrialization was pursued without understanding the consequences. As computers start to take the place of our minds, Mental Work technology is providing a new purpose for Homo sapiens, while simultaneously redefining the terms of technological engagement for our species.” The machines are philosophical instruments, he explains, noting that they allow workers to tangibly engage what’s coming so that everyone anticipates and plans more wisely. “Perhaps even more than Switzerland,” he says, “the need for high-throughput philosophy is especially dire in technological hubs such as Silicon Valley, which are notable for their dearth of critical thinking about technology.”

Designed by Mr. Keats, and recently nominated for the prestigious Prix Ars Electronica, the machines on view in the Mental Work showroom are based on slider cranks, standard mechanisms of the Industrial Revolution, which have been computerized and coupled with state-of-the-art dry EEG headsets made by Wearable Sensing. Millán’s lab in EPFL’s Center for Neuroprosthetics at Campus Biotech has developed algorithms that make the machines run when operators imagine movement in their hand muscles. Unique to the Mental Work system, the algorithms are themselves alterable by BMI, allowing workers to determine the nature of their interaction with the machines.

In San Francisco, audiences are invited to register online at to try out the Mental Work machinery. In order to accommodate as many people as possible, work sessions have been condensed to 60 minutes. After a twenty-minute training session, operators will rotate through three levels of technological advancement. “These machines will change you,” says chief business officer Michael Mitchell. “If you choose to license the technology, you can change the world.”

swissnex San Francisco’s CEO, Gioia Deucher, says “We’re really excited to present Mental Work within our gallery at Pier 17 after coming directly from EPFL Artlab. Mental Work reflects our ongoing examination of how intelligent machines are shaping our emergent future, and we look forward to welcoming the Bay Area community to our facilities.”

As showroom visitors interface with the machines, Millán will collect data that will allow his lab to further advance the interfaces. “Machines and workers will influence each other,” he explains. “And the impact will be compounded as our data is shared with the BCI community.”

Keats sees the impact as nothing less than human-machine co-evolution. “When people see our immaculate showroom, they may ask what the machines produce,” he says. “I have a simple answer: At Mental Work, we’ve produced the tools to manufacture the future.”

Mental Work: Showroom Opening 
Thursday, 17 May
swissnex San Francisco

Join us for the opening of the first showroom dedicated to machines operated by worker’s minds and meet the three Mental Work co-founders, chief business officer Michael Mitchell, chief scientific officer José Millán, and chief visionary officer Jonathon Keats.

Mental Work
May 20–July 28
swissnex San Francisco

The showroom will be open from May 20 until July 28—reserve your place in the Cognitive Revolution at:


The swissnex San Francisco edition of Mental Work is made possible thanks to the generosity of the Bertarelli Foundation, which tackles some the biggest challenges in neuroscience and marine conservation. Based in Switzerland, it supports research at Harvard Medical School and Campus Biotech, a neuroscience center in Geneva established by the Bertarelli family, the Wyss Foundation, the Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), and the University of Geneva. Part of the Swiss Touch campaign, Mental Work receives additional support from Wearable Sensing and the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia.

Mental Work is part of the #SwissTouch Campaign, dedicated to leveraging Switzerland’s innovative and forward-looking edge.

Press Contact 

For more information, please contact:
Perrine Huber
Head of Marketing & Communication
+1 415 690 3693