That “Mind Control” Siri Hack Was Just A Kickstarter Scam, Here’s Why

That “Mind Control” Siri Hack Was Just A Kickstarter Scam, Here’s Why

Remember Project Black Mirror, those hackers who claimed to have hooked up an some EEG suction cups, an Arduino and a MacBook Pro to an iPhone 4S and got Siri to read their minds? Lying bastards, the lot of them. And shame on us, we fell for it, at least in part.

As it turns out, Project Black Mirror’s Siri Mind Control project was as fake as Criswell. Greg Courville, an undergraduate physics student at the University of California, explains how you know:

If you haven’t spotted it already: not only does there appear to be virtually nothing connected to the SpeakJet chip, it’s also placed sideways in the breadboard, which shorts a number of critical pins together, and therefore would make it impossible to use.

The project’s blog claims that ”ECG pads provide raw skin conductivity / electrical activity as analogue data (0-5v)”. Let’s go ahead and ignore the fact that they seem to have confused EEG with ECG (which is a completely different type of measurement), and the spurious reference to “skin conductivity” (ditto). The most glaring problem with that statement is the claim that EEG signals fall in an Arduino-friendly 0-5V positive voltage range. Suffice it to say they don’t.

What did Project Black Mirror do? Based on their written statements, their YouTube videos and the photo shown below, they connected the electrode leads directly to the analog input terminals on the Arduino.

In short, there’s not even the slightest chance that they are actually recording EEG signals this way.

I’m usually pretty skeptical, but I fell for this one hard. I think why I fell for it is because Project Black Mirror’s video demonstration only showed Siri reading their minds for one command.: making a call to a predetermined number. Now, there’s nothing theoretically impossible about programming up an interface that sends a pre-determined command once enough EEG activity is measured, which is basically what I assumed they had done. In other words, Project Black Mirror’s set-up just listened for EEG activity, and once it detected it, it sent a command to a MacBook Pro to text-to-speech “Call my brother” to Siri. I didn’t think their hack understood EEG “grammar”, or could perform multiple commands according to what was thought. I basically just thought it was a nifty demo of an EEG-controlled on/off switch, which should be possible.

It sucks that Project Black Mirror’s so-called “hack” didn’t even do something as simple as that. Heck, even the Atari 2600 could turn signal voltage to turn “thoughts” into game commands. Instead, this was just a lie from start to finish, a bunch of blinking lights hooked up to an iPhone 4S to scam Kickstarters out of their money.

Absolutely shameful, and I’m sorry I fell for it. As CoM’s own Alex Heath beautifully says, “It’s a fake. We wish it wasn’t fake. Moving along now.”

  • larrymadill

    Mind control is fake? NO WAY! Next you’ll be telling me that the Ghost Hunters don’t find any ghosts.

  • AlterThending

    Mind Quad!

  • Rhys Williams

    Nicely debunked… I reckon it’s a viral promoting this TV drama: http://www.channel4.com/info/p

  • Ronald Stepp

    “That “Mind Control” Siri Hack Was Just A Kickstarter Scam, Here’s Why”

    You think?  Really?

    Well good thing they let us know it was a scam, I already had my wallet out to invest with monopoly money.

    Golly, as far as “why I fell for it is because Project Black Mirror’s video demonstration only showed Siri reading their minds for one command” one might go one step further and remember that they could be playing back whatever video they wanted to on the mac. Whether it had any connection to the flashy lights on the pinger detector is beside the point.

    Dude, just remove this whole article from the site and maybe everyone will forget you ever posted it. Just sad.

  • baby_Twitty

    John BrownLee u don’t read comments on your ‘articles’ much do you?

    A few of us have already warned you that this shit is fake as , well, shit.

    Just look at the rest of the comments on the youtube video of that Project black Mirror’s demo, its littered with accusations about how those idiots are trying to con the Kickstarter funding. 

    How could you have missed that?

    Tell me something, are you really on the payroll of CoM?

    Coz if a genius like you could fall for something like that and post it for CoM, then i guess anybody could post anything better for CoM.

  • Daibidh

    Errr… Brain-Computer interfaces aren’t fake.  Just this one.  There have been some significant advances as of late… especially in prosthetics.  But I hear ya on Ghost Hunters… BAA HAA HAA!

  • GH

    John.. Can you please leave COM. You’re ruining it, seriously.

  • Wes

    LOL!

  • Travis-norton

    Umm… Why does this seem so… NOT disappointing? You’re on a whole different level, here, John-Like that guy from Grandma’s boy! I do enjoy that you make yourself so vulnerable, though, in your articles.

  • codyreign

    I highly doubt its a hoax. Its not a complicated process, really. 

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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