"Currently, both commercial and state-of-the-art Computer Aided Engineering Design (CAED) systems are limited in how intuitive and conducive they are to the engineering design process. They are continually advancing but in an incremental fashion and doing so by adapting to established design processes. This research aims to look at engineering design from a radically different perspective. The aim is to investigate the feasibility of brain controlled CAED through identifying critical areas of the brain that are active during ideation in engineering design, and evaluating the feasibility of technology development, and its use, in controlling CAED systems using a direct Brain-Controlled Interface (BCI); surpassing the traditional CAED approach of mouse and keyboard interaction. Achieving this requires knowledge of the patterns of neural activation within the brain during creative engineering design, capabilities for development of CAED systems to reflect a new way of working, and incorporating a direct interaction between the human brain and CAED system. It should be noted that creativity is a difficult term to define, having different implications in a variety of different fields. In this research project, creativity is defined in the context of engineering design and the creative tasks undertaken in the processes within design, in particular ideation.
In order to map the activity of the brain during cognitive design tasks both cognitive and cognitive neuroscience scientists and engineering design academics need to be involved in experiment design, implementation and analysis, and the subsequent exploration of the feasibility of the practical implementation of the findings. We first must define the cognitive design processes to be examined and then create appropriate experimental tasks in which the defined cognitive design processes are clearly demonstrated by experienced designers. The patterns of brain activation will be recorded when practising designers perform the defined tasks in order to identify the responding areas of the brain. Understanding and assessing the feasibility of cognitive controlled CAED will provide is with the foundation to test the use of Brain Controlled Interface (BCI) controlled CAED.
By performing this inter-disciplinary research a new field will be created that incorporates cognitive science, engineering design, neuroscience and BCI in order to change the way ideation design is both perceived and performed, and in the process will open up new avenues for future research. The feasibility of this could initiate studies in a multitude of combined engineering design, CAED and BCI studies as well as input to other BCI developments in general.
CAED applications could become accessible to the physically impaired, help people enter the work force, reducing care costs, and enhancing self-worth and perhaps also allowing the ageing population to work later in life. The ways in which brain control interfaces could be used may also impact on the way that the general public considers interacting with technology. An understanding of the areas of the brain activated during specific CAED tasks will contribute to brain mapping currently being built by research programmes worldwide. Designers interested in new ways of designing will be able to gain knowledge of BCI capabilities for CAED using outputs on the potential role of BCI in CAED. Designers and researchers will learn about the brain processes involved in design tasks and the capabilities and limitations of using neuroscience to enhance design activities. The underlining idea of the research is that in the future anyone could be a designer creating ideas within a CAD system, giving a new dimension to crowdsourcing and enabling people without specific design skills to embody their thoughts."