Funded! This project was successfully funded on June 18, 2012.


Play a game of Pong on a custom built 8′ LED display using nothing but your brainwaves! Debuted at FIGMENT Festival NYC, June 9th.

What are you building?

At the FIGMENT Festival on Governor’s Island, New York City, on June 9–10, 2012, we unleashed Brain Pong—the classic pong video game on a giant 6 foot by 8 foot display, controlled by players’ minds. Now we want to finish it and make it even better and more awesome for Come Out & Play After Dark and World Maker Faire 2012 in New York.

Participants interact with the installation through our NeuroSky MindWave headsets.  These devices monitor brainwave activity, which we then channel to pit the players against our artificially intelligent Pong opponent.

The future is here, and it’s awesome. 

So, how does this work?

Our EEG headsets monitor players’ brainwaves through their skin—no brain implants required.  The headsets feed the signal into a program that separates them into “meditation” (low-frequency) and “concentration” (high-frequency) waves.  

The player’s pong paddle runs on “concentration” waves.  If he or she loses focus, the paddle stops moving and the AI opponent will win.  Our AI doesn’t gloat, though, we feel that the public shame of losing is painful enough.

Is this real?

Absolutely.  Our prototype Pong game runs on an Arduino LoL Shield, which uses a small 9×14 grid of LEDs. We even took it on the road to the Westport Maker Faire, where we had dozens of players of all ages.

And you’re building a Jumbotron version?

While the prototype is awesome, we’re firm believers that more is more.  We’re building a huge display that consists of bright white LEDs—our current budget is for 192 of them—mounted on a custom printed circuit board.  The lighting will be controlled by electromechanical relays, so there’s an old-timey clickety-clack noise as the ball moves across the screen.

We presented a mostly functional version of the big board at the FIGMENT Festival on June 9–10 on Governors Island, New York, and it was featured in the New York Times. Now we want to get all the 192 LEDs working, have them controlled by click-clack relays, and make a multiplayer version of the game where two players can face off against each other in a contest of competitive concentration. We will roll it out again at Come Out & Play After Dark @Seaport on July 13 ahead of the big launch at World Maker Faire New York in September.

Where is the money going?

We’re raising money for LEDs, custom circuit boards, relays to control the lights, wiring, construction materials and other components.  We’re just looking to get some help with material costs — Hack Manhattan members will volunteer their labor, and our members have already committed to funding a portion of the budget.

If we raise more than $1,500 after the cost of rewards, we will expand the project to make the Brain Pong experience even better: lots more (and brighter) lights and additional EEG headsets so several people can play simultaneously.

About Us

We’re a hackerspace — a community space for smart and curious people to come make stuff, learn, and use tools that are too big, expensive, and dangerous to keep at home.  We’ve got MakerBot and RepRap 3D printers, two sewing machines, a mini mill, a CNC desktop mill, soldering irons, hand tools, electronics supplies, a vertical garden, a beehive (with bees) and a fridge stocked with our homebrew beer. If you’re in the Union Square neighborhood on Tuesday evenings, come say hi!  

Hack Manhattan is a New York not-for-profit corporation established in October 2011. We are registered as a New York charity. Our application for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status is currently pending with the IRS. If it is approved, your contribution (less the fair value of your reward) may be tax deductible in the United States. We will update backers on the status of our application.


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    13 backers

    A personalized postcard of the Brain Pong installation from FIGMENT, signed by everyone involved in the project. Compatible with most refrigerators.

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    11 backers

    Personalized postcard, 5 Hack Manhattan stickers and a small 3D printed souvenir in biodegradable PLA plastic (includes US shipping). Contains small parts, not suitable for children under 3.

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    9 backers

    In addition to the lower level rewards, you get a special Brain Pong T-shirt! (includes US shipping). You’ll also be listed as a sponsor on our website, guaranteed to impress future employers who Google your name.

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    8 backers Limited (92 left of 100)

    In addition to postcard, stickers, 3D souvenir, and tee shirt, you’ll get a piece of Brain Pong history: a custom designed LED module containing the same 1.75 watt LED that we are using in the FIGMENT installation. It has 3 modes: always-on, fast blink, and slow blink. It's programmable, if you're into that sort of thing. Blind your foes! Attract potential mates! Compete with fireflies! Practice Morse code!

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    2 backers Limited (8 left of 10)

    In addition to postcard, stickers, 3D souvenir, tee shirt, and LED module, we will scan your head and 3D-print a scale-model plastic bust of you. Great conversation piece on your mantel, or you can wear it on a gold chain and launch your music career as MC Twoface. We’ll need you to be in NYC so we can put you into our head-scanning machine, though.

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    1 backer

    In addition to the postcard, stickers, 3D souvenir, tee shirt, and LED module, get a free NeuroSky portable EEG headset with all the included software. Monitor your own brain activity in the privacy of your home! Train your Jedi mind tricks!

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    0 backers Limited (10 left of 10)

    In addition to postcard, stickers, 3D souvenir, tee shirt, and LED module, you will receive your own copy of our original mind controlled pong game, including an Arduino, the assembled LED LOLshield display, and a MindWave portable EEG headset (including free US shipping). We’ll help NYC metro residents with setup in person, otherwise we’ll do it over Skype.

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    0 backers Limited (2 left of 2)

    Choose your own adventure. In addition to postcard, stickers, 3D souvenir, tee shirt, and LED module, we’ll create a custom mind controlled game for you based on your idea. The game will use the MindWave, an Arduino, and a LoL Shield. If you already have an idea, feel free to ask if it’s feasible. Note that we believe in sharing: the code for the game will be made public.

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    0 backers Limited (1 left of 1)

    Cake and Brain Pong Party: We will bring the entire Giant Brain Pong installation to your event. And we’ll bake you a cake. For locations in the New York metro area only, unless you want to pay for transportation. Add $500 and at least one of us will appear in a clown costume. Add $1,000 and we guarantee that nobody will appear in a clown costume.

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Funding period

- (18 days)