Transcript: Space4U podcast, Peter Freer & Rita McKinnish

Written by: Space Foundation Editorial Team

Hello. I am Carah Barbarick with the Space Foundation, and you’re listening to the Space4U podcast. Space4U is designed to tell the stories of the amazing people who make today’s space exploration possible. Joining us today are Peter Freer and Rita McKinnish. Peter Freer is the founder and CEO of Unique Logic Technology and Freer Logic, LLC.


With a background in education, Peter knew the struggle students with attention difficulties face. Using NASA technology, he developed Play Attention, an interactive learning system that allows students to control video, computer exercise by attention alone. Rita McKinnish is an accomplished educator with three degrees under her belt.


She taught elementary school for a handful of years before moving to middle school for 15 years, moving out of the traditional classroom. She became the media coordinator until her retirement. Throughout her education career. She was active in many other educational activities from yearbook staff to basic vocational skills.


As if that wasn’t enough. She also kept busy outside the classroom doing amazing activities, even raising goats. Thank you both for joining us today. Pleasure to be here. Pleasure, pleasure. So, Peter, let’s kind of jump right in. You call yourself a former educator, but we all know once an educator, always an educator.


Can you tell us a little bit more about your education background? Well, I was graduated from Western Carolina university with a Master’s in Ed and I had specialty areas in math and science and physics, and even the computer science courses at the time, which were my greatest interest. So I went into the classroom, you know, naive really as a first-year teacher often does and thinking that I was going to save all my students.


And I did that for, I think about 15 or 16 years before leaving education and developing the other tools that I developed. But it was the inspiration of those students that actually helped develop all of the technology that we get to use in the companies today. Awesome. So the, those little babies in your classroom really kind of inspired you, but what really do you think led you to becoming this pioneer in neuroscience?


But it didn’t fall directly from classroom teaching. I was teaching both adults and children at the time and my head specialty classes for adults. And then of course I was teaching elementary ed education as well, but I found that many of the students had attention problems and some were labeled as ADHD.


What even at, in those days, ADHD, wasn’t a term yet. I think they call it, they called it a minimal brain dysfunction. Uh, and then later on they started calling it the attention deficit disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. So I encountered my first one, uh, whose name was John? I think that was my first or second year of teaching.


And the other teachers, uh, that he had prior to me, came to me and said, look, we could do nothing with him. He can’t pay attention. He can’t sit still. Uh, you’re welcome to him. I was the only male teacher at the time in his grade level. And so they felt that giving him to a male might have some influence.


I sat him next to my desk and we were doing fairly well. Now, this is rural Western North Carolina. And so John obviously had a severe attention problem and his parents couldn’t cope with him. So at home, when John disobeyed, he was getting a belt, a whipping, and, uh, I felt incredibly bad for him. But that was common practice for parents in those days.


And I was doing well with them at school. We were learning to read a little bit better as math was improving because he was sitting next to me all day. So I could use proxy control. I could have an influence over him because he couldn’t, you know, daydream or anything. When I needed him to be focused, I could constantly redirect him, but it wasn’t good enough for his parents.


And one day he came in. This little hellion I had known actually had his head down on his desk and his eyes were bloodshot. And I asked him what had happened. I said, are you sick? He said, no, I’m on medicine. I said, well, if you’re on medicine, then you’re sick. And he said, no, I’m not sick. They said it’s for my attention.


And so they had medicated him, but they had not gotten the proper ratio in his meds yet. And, uh, he was totally just so disengaged. So sick. Uh, his eyes were so bloodshot and it was actually quite disheartening to see that. And I thought I could do better than that. I have all of this science education. I have computer programming skills.


Why not build something for him? So I began working three jobs, six days a week, so I could get enough money together. To put a program together for him. And I stumbled upon the fact that NASA was using feedback-based technology to train astronauts, to pay better attention in States of hyper-focus, where they’re extremely aroused and then hypo attentive, right.


Or hyper arousal where they’re bored because they’re just looking at gauges all day. And I began to study that work and I enhanced that work over the course of six years and actually filed, I think, three patents on it at that time and received them and it became Play Attention. And now Play Attention is the number one neurocognitive training program in the field with, uh, published and distributed globally in 10 different languages.


And it was quite a long journey, you know, that took many years to achieve. After we began the initial testing of it in the public school systems. So it was quite a long journey, but it was an amazing event, you know, to see what NASA was doing and then taking it into a practical application in a school system.


And then all that time I watched John, you know, it took many years to develop and I didn’t have it. And John ended up in jail and where a lot of students who have impulse control executive function problems — a lot of those students end up there and it, again, it was motivating me all that time, working those three jobs, six days a week to try to help John, to try to make this thing happen.


And it is quite difficult when the field has even been developed. I guess I should mention that neurocognitive training hadn’t even been developed. I actually thought of the idea of taking the neuro training that NASA was doing just for attention. And coupling it with executive function, skill training so that we were working on particular areas, cognitive skills, that support executive function, time on task, impulse control, memory, working memory, spatial memory, short-term memory, and many other things in integrated them into that field.


So I developed and pioneered the field of neurocognitive training in that was probably about 1994, when that all started and it gained momentum as we progressed in that field. And eventually Tufts University, School of Medicine tested it in three randomized, controlled studies in the Boston city school district.


I believe that was funded by the U.S. Department of Education. And they had extraordinary results that were published in three peer review journals, and they pitted us against typical brain games. Uh, like you would find you can purchase now on your cell phone or you can get a subscription. And when we initially talked, their premise was that brain training, his brain training is brain training.


So you could take these games that you can get on your cell phone. Right? And they’ll have the same result as neurocognitive training. And so they’ve put it, Play Attention, against those regular brain games. And then they had a control group that received no intervention whatsoever. So what happened was the Play Attention program produced significant results in academic performance in executive function and impulse control and attention and in behavioral control.


And so all of these were reported on several different assessment scales. Now, when we looked at what Tufts found in the brain training games, they had virtually no effect on the ADHD population whatsoever. Those students actually required an average of eight or nine milligrams increase in their medication, which was Ritalin primarily at that time, just to stay in school.


Whereas the Play Attention group did not. So after the pilot study was done and then a long-term study on a group of about 110 students, they went back six months later to see if those students maintained all of those gains. And indeed they had, whereas the other one had nothing to begin with and had very little to nothing at that time as well.


So we actually were very pleased and seeing that this training method that was inspired by NASA astronauts had been so successful. And then I was invited to lecture at the National Space Society to the heads of NASA. That’s just so amazing to kind of hear how you took something from NASA but blended it with those executive function skills.


So just really taking that to a whole new level. It is a fantastic journey, but I can tell you one thing when people tell you that it’s going to be difficult, because I was surrounded by people who were encouraging me, but I was also in touch with other folks who had pioneered different areas and, uh, they failed and they said, you know what, as hard as people tell you it’s much harder.


Well, they were exactly right. It is extraordinarily difficult to do to carry something like that off. And you have to be willing to work three jobs, six days a week. You have to be willing to devote most, all of your time to it one way or the other to make it happen. But if you don’t go into it with a bit of negativity, right.


If you don’t go into with that, you will not do it because it’s so awesome. It’s so difficult to surmount all of the problems that you face and all of the difficulties in trying to make something. Happen like that. So we’re very fortunate when I look back on it, having appeared in Time Magazine and the Boston Globe, and I’ve been on Good Morning America twice, I look back and go, Holy cow, how did I do it?


I lectured on it at the request of NASA, I was selected at the United Nations to the International Atomic Energy Agency for using that technology to train nuclear operators. And I look at that and I just shrugged my shoulders and wonder how the heck I got here sometimes. Well, and I think it goes back to what you said about saving your students.


I think that is most definitely a big motive. Rita, you can speak to that as well. You can. Yeah. I’m in this little part right here, but I am thankful that Peter and his group did not give up that they kept on because they’ve made such a difference in the educational world and in the world of young people and adults.


So I just know my little part, but listening to his story, it’s astounding. Yeah, I agree. It’s the Rita. When did you first become aware of Play Attention? Well, in the 90s, I guess is when I first. Came aware of it with the styrofoam helmet and this type of thing, but I really didn’t get into using it until like, ’03, ‘05, somewhere around in there.


I began using it with a group of students at the middle school that I was at. And that’s when I really truly understood the effect that you could have on young people and how positive their last could become when it had been so negative for so many years. Well, no, I’m just curious. I came out of the classroom myself.


What, you know, what about this particular technology really kind of made you decide? I want to use that. I want to try that with my students who are struggling. Was working with a group of students that were that label ADHD or add the school had asked me to work with a particular group of students and they wanted me to use this Play Attention program.


And I said, okay. So I started out with just. Five kids. And they would come for their hour, each one at a separate time. And these children would come in, not talking very angry that they were even there and not understanding why they were there. And so you had to work. Through a lot of emotional problems that they had.


And, and I would be upfront with them and tell them that I had other students lined up to come in and work. And if they truly were against being in here in this room with me, then I was happy to let them go back. And no, not one of those children that was working with at that time stopped. I don’t know why, but.


They didn’t stop. So then we started and it was a matter of working through each of the programs and talking with them, like, what distracted you? Why did you look away from that? And then they would tell me, and then we get to talking about the distraction in the classroom. And, and why did you do that?


And why did you get angry? And when we, we would talk about that and then continue to do the program. And this one, young man, a little red-headed boy cannot remember his name, but he was a little fireball and he challenged me a lot and he challenged himself and, but we kept with the program and I watched him progressed to this calmer person, highly intelligent.


All these kids were intelligent. And able to work in the classroom, not have confrontation anymore, get along better with their friends, do better in their classes. You know, it just, it spoke to me and it told me that all you had to do was have patience and work through this with the kids and, uh, In the long run, it would benefit them to become a good little person, help with their memory, help with their self-esteem.


And so that latched me in during that time period. I can see why, I mean, it feels like you’re just covering all aspects of their growth, their academic growth, their emotional growth. And that is a marvelous test. I was thinking about your student, John and I was thinking about. Uh, my little boat, one of the little boys in my class at the mother constantly would come in every day and want to know if she should increase the, what was it?


Ritalin was that the name of the, one of the primary medications? They took them this day. I wasn’t doing Play Attention to that time, but I wish I had had it with that particular student and the fact that the mother was manipulating him so much with this drug, you know, and I think it would have helped him because he was a sweet kid, but lost.


He was so lost. And I just think that this program would have helped him so much. Anyway, that’s me on the emotional side, thinking about students I’ve had in the past, it affects us all. And that is one of the passions that drove all of this technology. And to allow us to hand that tool over to a person like Rita at her school so that she could actually change lives.


And I think we probably should mention what the heck the technology is, because I think we haven’t really even talked about that. And then, so neurotechnology is just the ability to take a look at what the brain is doing in real time. So we can get on a treadmill and we can grab the handles on the treadmill.


And we see our heart rate in a matter of seconds. We know that if we’re running too fast and our heart rates too high, we can slow down. Or if we’re not running fast enough, We can run a little bit faster to get our heart rate in the zone where we need to be to sustain, you know, in a robust condition, that’s going to make us more physically fit.


And so if we can do that with the brain you need, the brain is the most important asset we have. I think just as an aside, AARP did a survey on a large portion of their clientele and said, you know, as you age. What is most important to you? And they really thought that the answer would be, I need to have enough money to survive my retirement.


I need to keep healthy, but the answer surprisingly was I need to make certain I keep my mental acuity. I need to maintain important memory. And that was the answer because seen their friends who are very, very wealthy, who are well off, who have great retirement come down with Alzheimer’s come down with, um, dementia and doesn’t, it didn’t matter how much money they had because you can have a million, 2 million, 10 million, $20 million.


And if you cannot function, if you’re in a state of dementia or if you have Alzheimer’s, it really doesn’t make any difference anymore. The brain is the most important asset we have without it. We are totally lost. It controls all of our lives. And it is indeed our inner universe.


So what the training allows us to do is take a look at the brain’s attention in real time. And then that combined with the fact that we can allow them to, um, use games, exercises that allow them to increase working memory or short-term memory, spatial memory, even social skills. Motor skills we actually do as well and finishing tasks on time.


Those kinds of things that they can work on them, they’re triggered by their attention. So when they pay attention, they actually trigger the game. They work on the game. If they lose their attention during it, game stops and says, I need you to be. Really focused for me. So they focus back in the game, begins again.


So this, we found this training to be highly effective. And we initially started with a bike helmet. Like I think Rita had mentioned a styrofoam helmet and that was a bike helmet we used. And, uh, we loaded it full of sensors. And then the sensors would pick up the brain activity. We had to wet down three little sensor pads over the top of the sensor so that we could make connections.


And that worked for years, although no one likes wearing three little wet spots on your head, you know, in a bike helmet, we looked at developing a new technology and this was one of the pioneering moments. We found a way to access brain activity through the body, rather than having a cap on the headache helmet or some type of headset.


That just seemed to annoy everyone. And the public has rejected for many years. We decided we could do it through the body. We found that technology to be highly effective and it was tested by Samsung and found that the correlation between brain activity and what we were finding through the body was very good.


So that was trademarked as body wave technology. And that is what Play Attention uses today. They actually have a little armband, looks like something that would hold your iPod or your cell phone while you’re listening to your tunes on the treadmill, or as you’re going for a walk or a jog. And it’s reading what the brain is doing in real time.


And that way we can offer the students the advantage of seeing what happens when they get distracted, seeing what their behaviors like that causes it, and then learning to control it and control the games which they use to strengthen their minds, strengthen their executive function. And it’s proved very highly effective.


We pioneered that initially just by putting that all together. And we even have a behavioral shaping component in it. So if the student fidgets a lot or calls out that kind of thing, they can see what it does to their ability to attend to the situation or the results on the current activity. And then they mitigate those behaviors.


They actually learn to self-regulate. So there is really no punishment. There’s really no, no, nothing negative about it’s all very positive and a matter of self-learning. So Rita talked about using it one on one with students in a, uh, removed setting. Is that the only way to use it in a school setting or is, can they, where fleet created?


Well, you would like to pull them out because being in a one-on-one gives them a successful environment to begin. Right. So we want to put them in an environment initially, where they’re going to, she experienced the most success. So the one-on-one situation is highly effective. However, we also have a lab version it’s called eyelash.


So one teacher at the front can be working with a student one-on-one, but also can monitor every student in that lab. From that master monitor, she can see every student’s brain data. In time with a flick of the mouse, she could look at each individual student and she has the ability to have a Skype or Zoom-type conference with them face to face.


And then she can either text or she can talk, uh, they have headsets on. And so you can have this real-time behavior shaping, going, even if you’re at the front of the room with each student. And you can see their brain dead and you can see what game they’re on. So it’s very, very effective to use it in a lab setting.


What’s functional now about that is that since we’re doing a lot of schooling at home, you can have a student in Colorado Springs, and I can be here in North Carolina. I can work with that student in real time. They have to have the arm band on and an internet connection, but I can see the student in real time.


I can see their brain data coming through. I can see their game data coming through. I can see what they’re doing in real time. So it’s just about like being there with them. And that is also I lab. So I lab could do it in a lab setting, but it can also do it. From a distance from a great distance with multiple students at one time.


Does that make sense or is that too abstract? No. Oh, I mean, just thinking back to my days in the classroom, that sounds pretty phenomenal to be able to, you know, help all the students. Cause I think, you know, we focused on those ones that have a little bit of struggle to begin with, but I think every individual can be assisted with some more brain training.


Oh, absolutely. You know, we have places that use it for peak performance. I’ve used it with NASA pilots in supersonic flight simulation, training, nuclear power operators to DaVinci robotic surgeons, the U.S. Olympic bobsled, luge. Oh gosh. So many different, uh, people who need just better training technology, not necessarily because they have poor attention, but they actually need a way to stay in a peak performance state.


So that they can learn faster and they can learn a little bit more than they would in a, in a very short amount of time. They’re learning far more than they would if they ranged over years. And that’s what it takes to be an Olympic athlete to become a world-class, uh, Olympian and a bobsled in luge. I think the average was about nine years from when you were taken as a very green novice all the way through.


And what we helped them do was cut that down to about four years. Wow. That’s phenomenal. When you think what the training can actually do. So we actually have in the new company formed Freer Logic, we have a division that specializes in training people. And how to perform tasks better and tasks under duress, you know, as a nuclear operator, it’s very difficult to be in the state of hypo arousal all day, looking at gauges, not much going on, but when something goes wrong.


You immediately have to shift into a state of hyper arousal where things are frenetic people moving around, asking questions, what’s going on? Why are those lights flashing? What is happening at the reactor? And you have to make very good decisions. And that was the basis for the training we provided to the nuclear power industry.


And they invited me to demonstrate that at the United Nations in Vienna, Austria, and that’s where I got to demonstrate in the lecture and they actually were gracious enough to allow me to help with a white paper. They were writing on human performance at the time was phenomenal when I think back on that.


Yeah. Yeah. I think you really have brought. And highlighted the concepts that this is from little kids to, you know, you mentioned AARP and I think Rita, I read a quote, you said it’s great from little to wisdom. And I just think that is so true. It’s beautiful. So it is true. You know, I have friends that retired before me and they were out in the world and everything and doing their thing and I would.


Get to see them and you know, how you get together and you kind of start noticing a little change, you know, about how they’re conversing and what they’re doing. Some of them were staying at home a lot instead of getting out and doing. And so I got concerned about that and after I retired, I thought I need to kick my brain power up a notch.


And so that’s when I latched back on, into Play Attention again and do the program a few times a week in my home and work with that, then, you know, you let it slide a little bit and then you get back in again and do a little refresher course continuing to build your brain up. And I can tell with myself personally that I might be 68, but my brain powers like 25-year-old.


I feel like. And that allows me to, I plan trips. I travel, I’m still riding my bicycle because you have to be able to be alert. And when you’re out there on a mountain bike path, you need to be able to respond quickly to a situation and not be distracted. So all of this has helped me. It helps me work on my taxes.


Do my checkbook, you know, everyday living, it helps me push myself further, get out in the yard and work harder because my brain is alive and wants more. It wants to keep doing so, Oh, a lot to Play Attention, not just Rita. We have people who have early onset dementia and Alzheimer’s, and I’ve had strokes.


So improving the brain, the brain is incredibly plastic and I’m using the term. Plastic is in malleable. Shapeable moldable. It’s called neuroplasticity. My wife’s parents live in a retirement community. One of the fellows had a stroke. He used to be a top bridge player there. He would come to the bridge table.


But he wouldn’t speak, he wasn’t able to speak yet. And he just became withdrawn, and his wife was quite concerned about him. And, uh, we recommended that she uses Play Attention with them and we gave them a system to use because this was quite exceptional that we had never worked with a stroke victim before, but we thought, you know what?


The training is the same. If we want to reroute the wiring of his brain, this is the time to do it. So his wife began training him within about, I think it took about six months. She wrote us a letter in the newspaper, the local newspaper. This is an Upstate New York, right? Under a Montreal. I think it’s called Plattsburgh, New York and the newspaper picked up on it and they came in and interviewed.


He was talking. And he was playing bridge and yeah, that’s what his wife said. She said, I got him back. I got him back and the newspaper wanted to be in on it because that’s a field story. But it’s very true. When we initially met him while we were visiting my parents, he had totally withdrawn. And then his rifles us to the side, I said, what am I going to do?


You know, we were obviously saying, well, we think we can rewire. We can help him get back the functions that are holding him back. Not allowing him to feel confident to talk and not allowing him to play Bridge because he can’t keep up with the cards. We can get that back. And she took it seriously. Yeah.


She was so fortunate to have a wife that was capable to help him using the Play Attention program to get those faculties back. And we have the same thing happened with a woman who had Alzheimer’s. We didn’t recommend it because we’d never done it before, but her counselor said she was going to do it.


So the only thing that woman received was Play Attention and exercise with Nancy and Nancy took her from a person who was getting lost on her way to come into Nancy’s office, not being able to even. After a while, not being able to function and not being able to talk because of Alzheimer’s that woman wrote us the most fantastic letter telling us how she was in there, but what was in her mind could never come out of her mouth or her hands.


And then she wrote us this beautiful letter saying I was in there, but I didn’t have a way to get it out. I was so lost and here I am. And I would love to talk to you. And so Nancy was flabbergasted. She, this took a year though. This took a full year, so I don’t want to make anyone think this is just a miracle and it’s just going to happen overnight.


It never does. It takes hard work for the person, but if you have someone who’s passionate about it and who really wants to make change, this is an incredibly good tool to help them do it. And that is living proof. Pam, someone who, again, could not speak, could not really communicate, was getting lost in her own mind.


And then come back and write us this letter and come back to a state where she’s functioning on her own. It is quite a phenomenal thing. And again, we are so pleased to hear things like that because it keeps everyone at the office, everyone in that company, the Play Attention company motivated. When you see things like that, everyone just goes around the office saying, did you see this letter?


Do you see what we, what we did and all that, because there’s a tremendous amount of support that we offer with it, but it pumps everybody up and I can see why it pumps me up still today. Yeah. Well, I think you’re pumping both. Um, no, I, I think I got tears in my eyes thinking about that lady with the dementia and the guy with a stroke.


I mean, it just tears me up that here we are, we have this device, this program that can bring people back. You just have to have patience to go the mile, go the year to do it, to work with it. I just absolutely just teared up. Beautiful. So new technology too. I think we might talk about that just the moment because, and freer logic, we’ve developed technology that can read your brain without any connection to you.


So we now have a headrest. That we use with about 14 major automotive companies. And if I listed them out, you would know every name on that list, but I’m under what is called a non-disclosure agreement to not talk about with them, but they are in development with it. So the headrest is, looks just like a regular car headrest, the one that’s in your car, it would look just like that.


And it reads what your brain is doing in real time. So if you start to get drowsy, the car can vibrate your seat and you might hear a voice say you’re getting drowsy. It may be time for you to get a cup of coffee or pull off the road, and then it will check your behavior again in the next couple of minutes.


And if you haven’t done anything, it will give you another warning, slightly more commanding so that we can help save lives. It also picks up on cognitive load. Cognitive load is the amount of work the brain does in order to drive effectively. So if you overload it, let’s say that you’re trying to text while you drive, which is more dangerous than drunk driving, or you probably have seen people going down the road and they’re swerving and you get around them.


And as you get around them, you can see they’ve got the phone in their hands. In front of the steering wheel and they’re texting while they’re driving, it’s insane to do it. Never a good idea. That’s cognitive load, too much load, and you can drive effectively. And so it also monitors cognitive load. So there are many other things that it does for safety features it also we’re working on detecting human emotion so we can detect road rage.


There’s a long roadmap with it. That we have, and what’s developing in vehicles. Eventually we think that it’s going to look a lot like, well, if either of you see the Iron Man movies with Robert Downey Jr., yeah, so he has a friend named Jarvis that talks to him in his, when he’s in the suit.


So we are working on that right now, so that let’s say cars driving down the road and something is wrong. It says, Carah, I noticed you’re stressed. Can I play some soothing music for you? Can I change the temperature in the car or maybe adjust your seat for you? And then you’ll be able to talk to it. And all of that is based on what we see.


Coming out of your brain in real time, when we have autonomous driving in the next eight to 10 years, where the car is actually driving you and you’re not even facing forward anymore, you’re facing everyone else in the car. So you can have the social experience then. So we will be monitoring. If you’re stressed, if you’re comfortable, things that will influence the way that you experienced the car, right.


You experienced since in the car, even intent what your intentions are in the next few seconds, the next 15 seconds. So that we can totally adjust the way the car responds to you as if it is just an extension of your home. I had a funny thing about three years ago, when I first came out with a headrest, I recommended that we give the passengers the opportunity to use executive function games, or at least cognitive skill games, like being mindful or meditation in the vehicle.


And the car makers looked at me as if I were insane. I said, why would we do that? I said the end goal for most of the cars. And even this is what we see for most car makers in the future. We don’t know whether you’re talking to them as an OEM, a car, original equipment manufacturer. So we don’t know if you’re on the same page, but we see this as being an extension of our home office, our home.


Because this is the way the car is going to be. It’s a place that we’re going to feel safe. We’re going to be connected. We’re going to have privileges in there that we don’t have other places. And this is going to happen in vehicle, Mr. Well, how do you see it being used? I said, well, it could be used for right now.


Let’s see your mom or dad. Okay. And you’re sitting outside, waiting for your child to come out of karate class or swim practice or soccer practice. And you finished your emails and you have nothing to do. Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we gave them a game to be mindful, we put a Lotus flower on the screen, on the counsel of the car and just through the headrest, they can be mindful.


If they’re mindful of that Lotus flower, they can open it. Pedal by pedal. If they lose their mindful state, the pedal will close. We already sold that app to high-end spas. We still sell it today. Die-ins POS and I believe you can now get it through Play Attention. So it’s teaching mindfulness and they looked at me and said, uh, you know, Peter, we just don’t see it.


Okay. So that was three years ago. Oddly enough, at the beginning of this year in January, I was summoned by four auto OEM that I had worked with in the past. He said, you know, we want to put this in our vehicles. Let’s go. Okay. That makes sense to me. But it’s sometimes it’s hard to be ahead of the curve because sometimes people look at you like.


I just don’t have your efficient, and if they don’t have the same vision, then it makes no sense to them. But oddly enough, after three years they come back and they said, you know what? It makes sense. We need to have this. Well, it’s like you’re taking science fiction and making it into reality so that there’s almost a level of disbelief that this, this can’t possibly work the way you say it’s going to work.


Oh exactly. You know, we actually had to prove ourselves. We’ve tested the headrest against the industry gold standard. The industry gold standard is called perk lows. It’s a camera technology that looks at the eyelid movement, whether it’s a slow droop or a fast droop, and it uses an algorithm to try to determine your level of drowsiness and fatigue over time.


And so, uh, we’ve been tested about six times against per close, uh, in independent studies. And we have beaten for close, close by an average of four or five minutes in determining drag driver fatigue and drowsiness, which will save thousands and thousands of lives. And this is how relevant it is, I was demonstrating at CES.


And CES is the largest consumer electronic show in the world. It’s in Las Vegas. I think there were 200,000 people there this year. These are the most tech savvy people in the world. And I was just setting up early one morning. No one was really even in the hall and this fellow sat down, um, the, uh, sofa where I had the headrest mounted.


So people could just sit. Control the computer screen by mind alone. And I could watch their jaws drop. So he sat down and he said, I’ve heard about you. I need to come over and try this. And he had a very thick accent and I couldn’t really determine where, uh, what accent list. And then he starts controlling the computer screen and he said, what are you working on right now with this?


And I said, we’re working on detecting, drowsy, driving for safety features in the car, because I had heard about this. I just wished I had it last year. And I said, where are you from? And he said, I’m from Poland. And I said, why did you need it last year? He said, well, my son and my wife were driving home after dinner.


Uh, her father and her mother were driving my wife and my son home. He fell asleep behind the wheel and he killed all of them. Oh, my. Oh, it was horrible. I just teared up or something. I said, we are going to continue to work on this until we have it, because you know, that kind of thing tells you how, even though it sounds like science fiction, we know we are making this real and it is happening right now.


And we’re working with over 14 car makers to make certain that kind of thing just doesn’t happen. And that’s really one of the great things about working with this particular technology in the field of neurotechnology is that we can help people and to be part of that, it’s just perhaps the greatest benefit out of all of this is that we are part of a huge movement now.


And a bunch of the Japanese car makers are using it. And I can’t mention who they are, but they are developing it for the same type of reasons. And then they’re doing things that even I hadn’t imagined before. And I can’t disclose those to you, but when they do become public, we should talk again because it is fantastic.


It is right out of, uh, Iron Man, the things that are happening, it’s out of a great science fiction movie, but they’re making it quite real and we’re helping with that. I can’t wait to see what comes next and what science fiction they bring into reality next, thank you both for coming on today and sharing this with us.


I feel that we owe a debt of gratitude to your student at the beginning for your, that kind of prompted all of this and just really pushed some innovations. So can Rita, you know, who’s just been marvelous at working with school children. Those are the people on the front lines. They are great, you know, and the parents involved again.


Not miraculous. It just takes a lot of work and dedication to do it, but the amount of change that you can acquire out of it, it’s just phenomenal. And we’re just happy to be part of it. And thank you so much for having us here. Thank you, Rita, I’m sorry. Probably I talked too much and it didn’t let you talk enough.


No. I’m thankful that you did just listening. I’ve learned so much from you and I’ve got in my brain that I’ve owned go to the assisted living home in Hendersonville, where my mother was and see if I can get this program going there for those people that just, you know, I just listening to you talk about the stroke victim.


I just feel like I need to do something more. Oh, that would be exciting to get started. Yeah. Thank you so much. My pleasure. Thank you for changing so many lives, both of you together, and that concludes this episode of the Space Foundation’s Space4U podcast. Keep your eyes and ears open for more Space4U episodes by checking out our social media outlets on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.


And of course, our website at on all of those outlets and more. It’s our goal to inspire, educate, connect, and advocate for the space community. Because at the space foundation, we always have space for you. Thank you for listening.

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Space4U Podcast: Peter Freer & Rita McKinnish – Play Attention