Hacking at Neurable for a Day

Anush Mutyala
5 min readMay 27, 2021

If you’re up to date with the neurotech field, you’re probably familiar with Neurable, a company trailblazing the path to the ubiquitous brain-computer interface. Think on the scale of the iPhone, the first smartphone to be widely adopted by the masses. That’s exactly what Neurable is trying to achieve.

Neurable first garnered attention by unveiled the first brain-controlled VR game back in 2017, and they’ve garnered $6 million in Series A funding to venture into the consumer space. And in April, they launched their new EEG headphone, Enten!

If you’ve ever seen an EEG headset before, you may recall seeing something like this:

From experience, I can tell you that conventional EEG headsets hurt like hell after a while, so what Enten is attempting is revolutionary. Do you see those lines on the ear cups of the Enten? Those are the electrodes that read your brainwaves 😲.

The guys at Neurable were able to fit 20 individual EEG channels into the EARCUPS! You get the idea; when they said they’re making the ubiquitous BCI, they meant it. So TL;DR, they are making some seriously cool technology, and last week, I was able to get my hands in their process!

6 teams of between 3–5 teens were given 24 hours by Neurable to build anything they wanted with the ENTEN HEADPHONES!!! FYI, these headphones aren’t supposed to be out until next year, so I did some early early access stuff.

Ok, so I can’t exactly disclose anything about the stuff that we did, but, this article will be geared towards dropping big takeaways and learnings from working with the Neurable team, as well as from my team’s success(we built 3 fully-fledged ideas) during the hackathon.

Starting off, I want to thank Dr. Mavi Ruiz-Blondet, Michelle Lim, Dr. Ramses Alcaide, James Mcintyre, and Dr. Ali Yousefi for hosting the Neurable hackathon and providing assistance to the teams throughout the hackathon. Extra s/o to Dr. Davide Valeriani for explaining Neurable’s signal processing. Another wave of s/o has to go to the Boston directors from TKS, Michael Raspuzzi, as well as Amna Hyder for bringing this opportunity to light.

I can’t emphasize this enough. The folks at Neurable are some of the kindest, most knowledgeable people in the field. These guys provided us with the insights necessary to build the crazy stuff that we did in 24 hours.

I think one crazy experience for me, that only hit me a day after the hackathon, was the fact my team and I were just casually talking to the CEO of Neurable. I literally fanboyed Dr. Ramses ever since I got into the field, and the fact that he set the time out to help us out was just 💯.

Can’t finish off the s/o without celebrating my team, can I? Big thank yous to Mikael, Kevin, Sriya, and Dickson for making my experience as memorable as it was.

Without further ado, here are my top 6 takeaways from the hackathon!

Working with people 10x smarter then 🧠

Working with legit people in the field can be intimidating for many, but the best way you can get comfortable in these situations is to get to know them. Everyone’s (hopefully) a human just like you, and no legit person is going to flame you for saying something stupid. The worst possible thing you can do when legit people are offering help is to not speak up because you think you’re too dumb.

How to apply the skills of everyone on your team 📈

This one’s an interesting one because my team only nailed this down a few hours into the hackathon. We basically built out one of our ideas in the first few hours, and one-half of the team was just chilling, so we took a moment to reorganize. Because we reorganized, we were able to get 3 ideas built out in 24 hours.

The key to doing this is by spending the first hours(optimally before the hackathon) figuring who’s doing what; once you’re in the hackathon and you guys realize the work isn’t delegated equally, that’s when you reorg. You have to be flexible, and be able to iterate quickly, or else reorganizing your team can be a detriment.

My team, in particular, had 2 AI peeps, and 3 BCI experts, and once we realized that the BCI peeps can do the signal preprocessing, and the AI peeps can build out the actual model, we were working 10x faster.

Utility > Extravagance 🔨

My team optimized for builds that can help the Neurable team, over builds that are flashy and neuralinky for no reason. Setting constraints is how you get sh*t done. Set realistic goals aligned with the challenge prompt from the start, and dynamically change them as the hackathon goes forth. Setting unrealistic goals always ends in 0 prototypes made at the end of the 24-hour sprint. Trust me, you never want to be the team that builds nothing at the end of the hackathon.

Code Optimization is a 👎

This is especially true for beginners doing hackathons. If it takes you longer than 20 minutes to make something run a few milliseconds faster, drop it, and move forward. I had to learn this the hard way. Hackathons aren’t about making perfect apps, they’re about making sh*t that works.

Sleep is for the weak 🛏️

Ok, this is a controversial one, but I’m telling you, the real hackathon experience is when you’re grinding code at 4 am with your whole team. Though some may argue that any work that is done after 3 am will be done 3x slower(slightly agree), the adrenaline and the vibes make it all the more worth it. Do note, though, that this isn’t sustainable in the long run. It’s ok to do 24-hour sprints once in a while, but it definitely isn’t if you do sprints every day. P.s I survived till 6:30 am without any caffeine; the biggest achievement of my life.

Be at your optimal from the get-go ⏰

This is probably the most important piece of advice. If you’re slacking in the first few hours, you’ll also slack in key moments as well. Don’t fall at the mercy of Parkinson’s law, this will make your 24 hours seem like 3 hours of work. Use your time wisely, procrastination is your worst enemy.

Finishing off, remember to build stuff that’s a little out of your current abilities, but is still achievable. In my opinion, success in hackathons is when you come out of it becoming an expert in something, whether it be a new stack for web dev, or learning ML in 24 hours. Winning is only a byproduct of the desire to learn.

If you’re interested in preordering the Enten, here’s Neurable’s Indiegogo. I would also definitely recommend joining their discord here.

Thanks for reading! You can find me on Linkedin here, and Github here.