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Upward Arrow began in 2010 with EraseMyLaptop, a laptop recycling service dedicated to keeping eWaste out of landfills. During the course of running the recycling business, we learned a valuable lesson: recycling alone would not put an end to eWaste. We discovered that to really solve the problem of eWaste we needed to change the way technology was made.

Our next step was a sustainable PC project. In 2014, after completing the prototype and a limited attempt at crowdfunding, we learned another important lesson: The PC platform is over three decades old. By the same measure, the smartphone platform is more than a decade old. There’s little chance of radically changing the manufacturing, production, and recycling processes for technology that’s already being used by millions of people.

Throughout this time we had been conducting EEG research into how people experience different media. As part of our overall effort to ensure technology serves humanity, this research exposed us to the emerging field of brain computer interfaces and revealed how screen-based media cause a level of hyperactivity in the brain which is counterproductive for deep thinking and reasoned decision-making.

Suddenly, everything came together.

To truly make sustainable technology, we would need to start with the next computing platform and build sustainability into it right from the start.

Brain computer interfaces (BCIs) are the crest of the next wave of wearable technology which is only beginning to swell. A new platform based on detecting electrical signals from the human brain and body could reduce our dependency on screens and also reduce the amount of waste created by technology.

In 2015, we began evaluating different BCIs and soon discovered the primary challenge facing the adoption of the technology.

The primary challenge facing most BCIs at the time, and this is still the case as of this writing, is that they appeared like a large helmet or wired hat that was placed on someone’s head. None of the available BCIs were comfortable enough to be worn for an extended period of time.

So, we turned our attention to developing a more comfortable method for aquiring electrical signals from the human brain and body. Our explorations in developing a more comfortable BCI will be the topic of the next post.