Nick Merrill

I am a PhD candidate in BioSENSE at the UC Berkeley School of Information.

I use quantitative and qualitative methods to study how ubiquitous sensing technologies blur the line between sensing bodies and sensing minds, and what this moving boundary means for the future of cybersecurity. In particular, I am interested in how beliefs about the mind inform the way engineers model it, and how users understand these models as relevant in the course of life. Most recently, I deployed a working brain-computer interface to study how software engineers in Silicon Valley conceive of the mind (CHI '18). Before that, I studied how people build emotional interpretations around basic biosignals (CSCW '17).

I have also made various technical contributions in security, particularly around passthought authentication (IEEE EMBC '16, IEEE BSN '16, UBICOMP '17). I've written a review of the subject (NSPW '17).

In Fall 2017, I taught Mind Reading & Telepathy for Beginners & Intermediates.

My dissertation committee is John Chuang (my adviser), Coye Cheshire and Alva Noë.

Selected publications

Nick Merrill, John Chuang. From Scanning Brains to Reading Minds: Talking to engineers about brain-computer interface. CHI '18. (to appear)

Nick Merrill, Max T Curran, John Chuang. Is the Future of Authenticity All In Our Heads? Moving passthoughts from the lab to the world. NSPW '17.

Nick Merrill, Coye Cheshire. Trust Your Heart: Assessing cooperation and trust with biosignals in computer-mediated interactions. CSCW '17. Honorable mention

Max T Curran, Nick Merrill, John Chuang, Swapan Gandhi. One-step, three-factor authentication in a single earpiece. UBICOMP '17.

Nick Merrill, Max T Curran, John Chuang. Classifying mental gestures with in-ear EEG . IEEE BSN '16.

See all my publications, or curriculum vitae.


NEO.LIFE. When computers read your mind, you’ll need a great passthought. July 15, 2017.

Techonomy. Will your next password be a brainwave? June 20, 2017.

CNet. Facebook’s moonshots: Making brains type and skins hear. April 19, 2017.

Berkeley ISchool News. What happens when an app shares your biosignals? March 3, 2017.

KRON4. New brainwave reading tech from Cal Berkeley released. November 18, 2016.


signal-protocol (2016). The Signal key ratchet (as used in Signal messenger), packaged for node and browsers. [HN thread]

aaronson oracle (2016). Press the 'f' and 'd' keys randomly. It's easy. Just use your "free will." [HN thread] (2015). Encrypted, pseudonymous chat in the web browser.

BCI review (2017-). Independent brain-computer interface news & opinion.

ffff at berkeley edu
(my public key)