Electroencephalography (EEG) and Vital signs integrated existing virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) headsets

From Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

This challenge seeks the development of a user-friendly and robust device for monitoring electroencephalography (EEG) and multiple vital signs integrated into existing extended reality headsets.

Sponsoring Department: National Research Council of Canada (NRC)

Funding Mechanism: Grant

Opening date: July 16, 2018
Closing date: September 20, 2018, 14:00 Eastern Daylight Time

Log in to view your submissions

Challenge

Problem statement

Current systems used in research to evaluate and correct cognitive deficits such as attention, memory and executive functions require the use of several different types of sensors, not integrated with each other, which are often uncomfortable and delicate when moved around. These cognitive deficits can be caused by concussions, strokes, genetic predispositions, and can affect children as well as adults, including the elderly. NRC is developing a software platform to assess and correct cognitive deficits resulting from these neurological disorders that interfaces with existing virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) headsets. NRC would like to see an integrated sensor available on the market to capture all of these signals, EEG and vital signs (pulse, temperature, electro-dermal activity, electrocardiography), integrated with existing virtual & augmented reality headsets, to catalyze development by the industry of various solutions such as health, well-being, training and others.  Such a tool would provide good quality data without inconvenience for the user, be affordable and interact with mobile platforms such as iOS and Android.

Desired outcomes and considerations

Affordable: eventual sales price for an integrated unit must be low enough to allow for mass deployment, democratization of the technology nationally and internationally. In order to be commercially attractive, the retail price should  be between $1000 and $3000. 
Availability of a wireless connectivity via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth  with Android, iOS and Windows for Surface computing platforms or portable computers.

Target specifications:

  1. Minimum four channels EEG monitoring at head locations conductive to monitoring stress, concentration and executive functions.
  2. Non–intrusive, using dry electrodes, easy to connect and install, efficient on a majority of head shapes, 8 years old and plus, with or without hair.
  3. Hardware integrates with commercially available VR/AR headsets (Vive, Oculus and Hololens), i.e. one headset to install
  4. Supporting vital signs monitoring like electrocardiogram (ecg) (hr) + galvanic skin response/electrodermal activity (gsr/eda) + temperature
  5. Signal robust to head motion and physical activity in a clinical environment (such as a treadmill or an exercise carpet), i.e. connection is not lost because of movements,
  6. Ability to monitor the quality of the connection, i.e. full contact or partial contact
  7. Signals coming from the different sensors are synchronized
  8. Comfortable and adjustable in size to fit multiple individuals (i.e. children, adults, elderlies)
  9. Robust signal acquisition and recording, i.e. once connection is established, signal is broadcasted to a computer and recorded within seconds for a long duration (should handle sessions of one hour without interruptions).
  10. Options for recording: ability to select/deselect the signals that we want to record and the frequency of recordings.
  11. Filtered raw data (artefacts removed)
  12. Easy to setup, install and wear within 5 minutes(e.g. seniors could do on their own without breaking anything).
  13. Wireless monitoring
  14. Manufactured with integrated VR/AR headsets, computing platform, freely available open source Software Development Kit (SDK) or Application Programming Interface (API) compatible with platforms such as Windows, iOS, Android, and firmware and board electronics.
  • Feasible path to regulatory.
  • Proper electrical certification.
  • VR/AR headsets functionality unchanged.
  • Overall weight should be kept low (maximum of 550 grams)to fit a broad range of individuals (8 years old +).
  • Overall headset should be balanced in weight.
  • Need for good quality data without inconvenience for the user.
  • Adding eye-tracking capability to the headset would be a valuable asset.

Background and context

Cognitive disorders impact many individuals, from those in early childhood to late adulthood. The performance of traditional methods for cognitive assessment and therapy remains limited in effectiveness and challenges persist for the clinical community. An emerging field of research involves the use of gaming technologies, integrated with EEG and physiological monitoring, as an effective alternative to these traditional methods. Such an approach offers large potential for replacing or complementing pharmaceutical therapy alternatives. Noteworthy research is being performed at locations throughout North America on developing and validating the effectiveness of visual stimuli interaction exercises for a range of disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), phobia, dementia and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).  NRC's goal is to develop a clinically-relevant interactive simulation platform (software), integrated with EEG and supporting physiological monitoring that addresses the range of cognitive impairments arising from psychiatric disorders, neurodevelopmental disorders or substance abuse.

Numerous companies offer components of the required technology, including EEG, traditional physiological monitoring and VR/AR headsets. Seamless integration that considers user-friendliness for a range of users remains lacking. Many of these components systems remain limited for use by clinical researchers. Our objective is to increase effectiveness, convenience and affordability so as to deploy for home care use, via remote monitoring by a clinician.

Maximum value and travel

Maximum grant value

Multiple grants could result from this Challenge.

Funding of up to $150,000.00 CAD for up to 6 months could be available for any Phase 1 grant resulting from this Challenge.

Funding of up to $1,000,000.00 CAD for up to 2 years could be available for any Phase 2 grant resulting from this Challenge. Only eligible businesses that received Phase 1 funding could be considered for Phase 2.

This disclosure is made in good faith and does not commit Canada to award any grant for the total maximum funding value.

Travel

For Phase 1 it is anticipated that two meetings will require the successful bidder(s) to travel to the location identified below:

  • Kick-off meeting
    Montreal, Quebec
  • Final Review Meeting
    Montreal, Quebec

Eligibility

Solution proposals can only be submitted by a small business that meets all of the following criteria:

  • for profit
  • incorporated in Canada (federally or provincially)
  • 499 or fewer full-time equivalent (FTE) employeesFootnote *
  • research and development activities that take place in Canada
  • 50% or more of its annual wages, salaries and fees are currently paid to employees and contractors who spend the majority of their time working in CanadaFootnote *
  • 50% or more of its FTE employees have Canada as their ordinary place of workFootnote *
  • 50% or more of its senior executives (Vice President and above) have Canada as their principal residenceFootnote *

Application guide

All federal departments and agencies that issue ISC challenges, regardless of whether they use a grant or a contract as the financial instrument to support research and development (R&D) in Phases 1 and 2, will assess proposals and bids from small businesses based on standard questions. The online application and bid submission system will contain these standard questions and provide guidance on the length of responses.

Assessment process

Once a complete application or bid is submitted, it will be sent to the department and agency that issued the challenge as well as to the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) for assessment. It is the prerogative of the challenge sponsoring department or agency to decide which businesses will receive funding for Phase 1. All businesses that submit an application or bid will receive feedback.

In advance of accepting applications and bids from eligible businesses, the following is meant to provide guidance to businesses on what could be asked as part of the application and bid submission process. The information below may be used to evaluate proposals and is subject to change.

Innovation

  • Please be prepared to identify the starting technology readiness level (TRL) of the solution and the anticipated TRL at the completion of Phase 1. Reminder, Phase 1 is meant for solutions in the TRL range from 1 to 4.
  • Be prepared to describe the novelty of your solution and how it advances the state-of-the-art over existing technologies, including competing solutions. Include in your description the scientific and technological basis upon which your solution is proposed.
  • Be prepared to identify what are the key scientific and technical risks facing your solution and how those risks would be addressed in Phase 1.

Benefits to Canada

  • Please be prepared to provide a brief description of your proposed solution and how it addresses the problem identified by the department or agency that issued the challenge statement.
  • Be prepared to describe the benefits to Canada that could result from the successful development of your solution, with a focus on three types of benefits: Economic Benefits, Innovation Benefits, Public Benefits.

Economic Benefits: Consider the proposed solution's potential impact on the growth of your firm but other firms in Canada more broadly. This could include the development of new clusters and supply chains. Consideration should be given to the number of jobs created, number of high-paying jobs, project-related revenue growth, etc.

Innovation Benefits: Consider the proposed solution's expected contribution towards the enhancement or development of new industrial or technological innovation within your firm. For example, potential spillover benefits, creation of intellectual property, impact on productivity of the new technology, etc.

Public Benefits: Consider the proposed solution's expected contribution to the broader Canadian public, including but not limited to inclusive business and hiring practices (e.g., gender balance), investment in skills and training and the environment.

Management and technological capability

  • Please be prepared to identify the work plan for Phase 1 including key milestones and activities anticipated, the total time foreseen to complete Phase 1 (not more than 6 months), resources required to complete the project and the key success criteria.
  • Be prepared to identify the potential project risks (e.g., financial, project management, human resources, etc.) to the successful development of the solution and how those risks would be managed in Phase 1.
  • Be prepared to provide a brief description of the project implementation team including specific members, partners, their roles and responsibilities, and how their expertise is relevant to the project. The team members must include a Project lead.
  • Be prepared to describe what your business is doing to encourage greater inclusivity in its innovation activities. One of the objectives of the program is to encourage greater participation of under-represented groups (e.g., women, Indigenous people, youth, persons with disabilities, visible minorities) in the innovation economy.

Financial capability

  • Please be prepared to provide a financial proposal for R&D in Phase 1. Be sure to check the details of each challenge posting which will indicate the maximum funding available for Phase 1 as well as any eligible or ineligible costs.
  • In addition, please be prepared to provide information on funding received from other orders of government (i.e., federal, provincial and municipal) for the same work being proposed in your application or submission.
  • Please be prepared to describe the financial controls and oversight that your business has in place to manage public funds if selected to proceed into Phase 1.

Commercialization

  • Please be prepared to describe how you envision the commercialization of your solution and how potential risks or barriers to further commercialization would be mitigated.

Application guide

Evaluation Criteria

Innovation PASS/FAIL section
Question Mandatory/ Point Rated Criteria Assessment Pass/Fail or Points Range Minimum Pass Mark
1 (a) Mandatory The Applicant/Bidder demonstrates that the proposed solution is starting between Technology Readiness Level 1 and 4 (inclusive). Pass: The Applicant/Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution is starting between TRLs 1 and 4 (inclusive), and provides justification by explaining what kind of research and development (R&D) has taken place to bring the solution to the stated TRL.

Fail: The Applicant/Bidder has not provided sufficient evidence that the TRL is between 1 to 4 (inclusive) including:
  1. There is insufficient/no evidence provided for TRL judgment.
  2. The solution involves the development of basic or fundamental research.
  3. The solution is at TRL 5 or higher.
  4. The solution is commercially available
  5. The explanation simply paraphrases the description of a given TRL level.
  • TRL 1: Basic principles observed and reported
  • TRL 2: Technology concept and/or application formulated
  • TRL 3: Analytical and experimental critical function and/or proof of concept
  • TRL 4: Components and/or validation in a laboratory environment
  • TRL 5: Component and/or validation in a simulated environment
  • TRL 6: System/subsystem model or prototype demonstration in a simulated environment
  • TRL 7: Prototype ready for demonstration in an appropriate operational environment
  • TRL 8: Actual technology completed and qualified through tests and demonstrations
  • TRL 9: Actual technology proven through successful deployment in an operational setting
Pass/Fail Pass
1 (b) Point Rated The degree to which the Applicant/Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution advances the state-of-the-art over existing technologies, including available competing solutions, and provides a description of the scientific and technological basis of the solution.
  • 0 points The Applicant/Bidder has not provided any details that the proposed solution advances the state-of-the-art over existing technologies, including available competing solutions.
  • 4 points
    • The proposed solution offers one or two minor improvements to existing technologies, including available competing solutions, that have potential to create competitive advantages in existing market niches; OR
    • The stated advancements are well-described in general, but are not substantiated with specific, measurable evidence.
  • 6 points
    • The proposed solution offers three or more minor improvements to existing technologies, including available competing solutions, that together are likely to create competitive advantages in existing market niches; OR
    • The proposed solution offers one significant improvement to existing technologies that is likely to create competitive advantages in existing market niches
  • 8 points
    • The proposed solution offers two or more significant improvements to existing technologies, including available competing solutions that are likely to create competitive advantages in existing market niches and could define new market spaces; OR
    • The proposed solution can be considered a new benchmark of state of the art that is clearly ahead of competitors and that is likely to define new market spaces
0-8 4
1 (c) Point Rated The degree to which the Applicant/Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution can solve the problem identified in the challenge.
  • 0 points There is no clear link between the solution and the challenge.
  • 4 points The proposed solution has components that partially relate to the challenge, but it is not clear or substantiated how the solution solves the challenge problem.
  • 6 points The proposed solution includes a sufficient description of how it solves the challenge problem with minor substantiation of the claimed solution.
  • 8 points The proposed solution substantially addresses how it solves the challenge problem with substantial evidence to support the solution claims.
0-8 4
1 (d) Point Rated The Applicant/Bidder identifies scientific and technical risks facing their solution and explains how those risks would be addressed in Phase 1.
  • 0 points The Applicant/Bidder has not provided any details on potential scientific or technical risks facing their solution.
  • 4 points The Applicant/Bidder has provided vague scientific and technical risks and does not provide how those risks will be mitigated.
  • 6 points The Applicant/Bidder has identified scientific and technical risks to their solution but only provides vague mitigation strategies.
  • 8 points The Applicant/Bidder has clearly identified specific scientific and technological risks facing their solution and clearly outlines how those risks will be mitigated in Phase 1.
0-8 N/A
Benefits to Canada
Question Mandatory/ Point Rated Criteria Assessment Pass/Fail or Points Range Minimum Pass Mark
2 Points Rated The proposed solution describes the benefits that could result from the successful development of the solution using the following 3 categories (Economic Benefits, Innovation Benefits, Public Benefits The Applicant/Bidder identifies the benefits to Canada citing 3 categories of below (Innovation, Economic and Public).
  1. Innovation Benefits: The proposed solution's expected contribution towards the enhancement or development of new industrial or technological innovations. Assessment factors could include: potential spillover benefits, creation of intellectual property, impact on productivity of the new technology, etc.
    0 points: Benefit not identified or insufficient claim of benefit.
    1.5 points: Benefit has marginal increment or limited justification.
    3 points: Benefit is significant and well justified.
  2. Economic Benefits: The proposed solution's forecasted impact on the growth of Canadian firms, clusters and supply chains, as well as its expected benefits for Canada's workforce. Assessment factors could include: number of jobs created, number of high-paying jobs, project-related revenue growth, etc.
    0 points: Benefit not identified or insufficient claim of benefit.
    1.5 points: Benefit has marginal increment or limited justification.
    3 points: Benefit is significant and well justified.
  3. Public Benefits: The solutions expected contribution to the broader public, including inclusive business and hiring practices (e.g., gender balance), investment in skills and training and environmental best practices. Assessment would consider the degree to which the Applicant/Bidder demonstrates that the solution is expected to generate social, environmental, health, security or other benefits to Canada. Assessment factors could include: solution-related environmental benefits, investment in local communities and solution-related impact on Indigenous communities.
    0 points: Benefit not identified or insufficient claim of benefit.
    1.5 points: Benefit has marginal increment or limited justification.
    3 points: Benefit is significant and well justified.
9 N/A
Management and Technological Capability
Question Mandatory/ Point Rated Criteria Assessment Pass/Fail or Points Range Minimum Pass Mark
3 (a) Point Rated The Applicant/Bidder provides a project plan for Phase 1 that includes key milestones and activities, estimated time to complete the milestones and associated success criteria.
  • 0 points The proposed project plan is partially complete with significant gaps in time between milestones. Total time for completion of Phase 1 not provided.
  • 4 points The proposed project plan is conceivably achievable and time available, but it is not clear or substantiated that this is the case. Total time for completion of Phase 1 provided.
  • 6 points The proposed project plan includes milestones that provide some substantiation that the solution is solvable with the time available. Total time for completion of Phase 1 provided.
  • 8 points The proposed project plan substantially addresses time available and provides evidence of the ability of the Applicant/Bidder to reasonably develop the proposed solution within the scope of Phase 1. Total time for completion of Phase 1 provided.
0-8 N/A
3 (b) Point Rated The Applicant/Bidder describes the potential project management risks to the successful development of the solution and how will they be managed in Phase 1.
  • 0 points The Applicant/Bidder has not identified any project management risks
  • 4 points The Applicant/Bidder has identified vague project management risks and does not provide a risk mitigation strategy.
  • 6 points The Applicant/Bidder has identified project management risks and only partially addresses them with a mitigation strategy.
  • 8 points The Applicant/Bidder clearly outlines project management risks and provides a mitigation strategy to address them.
0-8 N/A
3 (c) Point Rated The Applicant/Bidder identifies roles, responsibilities and expertise in the project implementation team that will develop the solution in Phase 1.
  • 0 points There is no information that describes the roles, responsibilities and expertise of the applicant/bidder or any associated external partners.
  • 4 points There is no project lead identified and/or there is minimal or incomplete information concerning the roles, responsibilities, capabilities and expertise of the applicant/bidder and any external partners.
  • 6 points A project lead is identified and there is sufficient information regarding the roles and responsibilities of the applicant/bidder and any associated external partners. However, the expertise of team members, including the project leader, is not clearly demonstrated.
  • 8 points The applicant/bidder has provided full and complete information on roles, responsibilities and expertise of all project implementation team members including any associated external partners. The project implementation team, including the project lead, have an exceptional combination of skills, capabilities and experience to deliver the project in Phase 1.
0-8 N/A
3 (d) Point Rated The Applicant/Bidder identifies how it is including members of under-represented groups (e.g., women, Indigenous people, visible minorities) in its efforts to innovate.
  • 0 points No description or examples of actions the Applicant/Bidder has taken to encourage inclusivity in its innovation activities.
  • 2 points. The Applicant/Bidder only vaguely mentions that under-represented groups are involved its innovation activities with no examples or substantiation.
  • 3 points The Applicant/Bidder identifies clearly how under-represented groups are involved in its innovation activities and provides examples and/or justification.
0-3 N/A
Financial Capability
Question Mandatory/ Point Rated Criteria Assessment Pass/Fail or Points Range Minimum Pass Mark
4 (a) Point Rated The degree to which the Applicant/Bidder has identified a realistic financial proposal to advance the proposed solution in Phase 1.
  • 0 points The financial table is not provided OR significantly lacks credibility in the costs identified to complete Phase 1.
  • 2 points The financial table is completed however some costs are either over or under-estimated for the work foreseen in Phase 1.
  • 4 points The financial table contains strong, credible elements of the costs associated with Phase 1.
0-4 N/A
4 (b) Point Rated The degree to which the Applicant/Bidder has indicated financial controls and oversight to manage public funds in Phase 1.
  • 0 points No financial controls or oversight mechanisms are identified.
  • 2 points The Applicant/Bidder provides very general or vague descriptions of financial controls and oversight to manage public funds.
  • 4 points The Applicant/Bidder has clearly identified human resources as well as processes to manage public funds in Phase 1.
0-4 N/A
Commercialization
Question Mandatory/ Point Rated Criteria Assessment Pass/Fail or Points Range Minimum Pass Mark
5 (a) Point Rated The degree to which the Applicant/Bidder has thought beyond the work in Phase 1 and advancing the solution in Phase 2.
  • 0 points  The Applicant/Bidder has not provided any description of activities in Phase 2.
  • 4 points The Applicant/Bidder has provided some evidence of thinking about moving the solution from Phase 1 to Phase 2. However, there are significant gaps.
  • 6 points  The Applicant/Bidder has provided a more complete picture of how the solution could be moved from Phase 1 to 2, however, there are unrealistic expectations.
  • 8 points  The Applicant/Bidder has provided a complete picture of efforts to take the solution from Phase 1 to Phase 2.
0 - 8 N/A
5 (b) Point Rated The degree to which the Applicant/Bidder has identified target market, risks and barriers to commercialization following Phase 2.
  • 0 Points  The Applicant/Bidder has not provided a vision or plan of taking the solution beyond Phase 2.
  • 2 Points The Applicant/Bidder has provided a vision or plan of taking the solution beyond Phase 2. However, the Applicant/Bidder has not identified, or made very little effort to identify, a target market barriers or risks to commercialization after Phase 2.
  • 4 Points The Applicant/Bidder has provided a clear vision or plan of taking the solution beyond Phase 2. Target market, Barriers or risks to commercialization following Phase 2 are identified as are potential risk mitigation strategies.
0 - 4 N/A
Minimum pass mark
40
Total available points
80

Questions and answers

All incoming questions regarding a specific challenge will be posted here with the corresponding response.

If you have a question about a challenge, please send it to ISED-ISDE@canada.ca.

You can also consult the Frequently asked questions about the Innovative Solutions Canada Program.

A glossary is also available.

Does the data need to be input into the VR headset/app?

No, the data does not need to be inputted in the VR headset app.

Is the monitoring going to a separate device entirely?

That is correct. The monitoring is going to a separate device entirely.

Does the weight limit include the VR headset itself?

No, the weight limit is for the EEG & Biometrics device only and does not include the weight of the commercially available VR headset.

Does the VR headset itself need to be wireless, or just the monitoring device?

The EEG & Biometrics device needs to be wireless. Commercially available VR headsets are not part of this challenge. They themselves are usually wireless. If the question is "Can there be a wired connection between the EEG & Biometrics device and the commercially available VR device", the answer is: it is possible.

Is there an EKG placement preference (e.g., 12 electrodes, 5 electrodes, etc.?)

It is up to the bidder to come up with an efficient EKG placement strategy to attain the optimal signal quality and meet requirements of the challenge. This part was left to the bidder to propose solutions intentionally.

What does 'unit' mean in this context? Does this mean the device is within one enclosure, or it's on a single PCB?

Unit as in "eventual sales price for an integrated unit" refers to "an integrated sensor available on the market to capture all of these signals, EEG and vital signs (pulse, temperature, electro-dermal activity, electrocardiography)" as stated in the challenge, under Problem Statement. It is up to the bidder to propose solutions which will be examined. ISC requires ideas for solutions that have a good potential to attain a viable TRL4 product in this phase.

What executive functions need be defined?

The specifications ask for "Minimum four channels EEG monitoring at head locations conducive to monitoring stress, concentration and executive functions." Executive functions include cognitive processes such as: attention, inhibitory control, working memory, emotion regulation, planning and reasoning.

It seems like a big portion of the grant revolves around the industrial design (size, mounting, setup, etc.). To achieve TRL 1-4 is it necessary to show that the hardware meets these requirements already? Or is it enough to show a proof of concept of all sensors working on development hardware, with the industrial design coming after the grant is awarded?

Award of the grant will be done before technology can reach TRL 4. The proposal will be judged and possibly chosen on its ability to reach TRL 4 in phase 1, which will require the Basic Technological components to be integrated to establish that they will work together in a laboratory environment by the time the phase 1 is finished. So bidders will need to demonstrate, in their bid, that they have the capacity to meet the hardware requirements in a laboratory setting by the end of phase 1. They don't have to meet it already; that is what phase 1 grant is for. Working on reaching TRL 4. Here is the reference of the TRL scale posted on the ISC Web site: http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/101.nsf/eng/00031.html,

Date modified: