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 sensing technologies blur the line between sensing bodies and sensing minds, and what this moving boundary means for the future of security online. Recently, I built a brain-computer interface to study how software engineers in Silicon Valley conceive of the brain and 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 brain-computer interface, particularly passthoughts.

For details, see CV, Google Scholar or github.

What's New

In Spring 2018, I completed my dissertation. My committee is John Chuang (my adviser), Coye Cheshire and Alva Noë. Link to PDF soon.

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

Recent Papers

Richmond Y Wong, Nick Merrill, John Chuang. When BCIs have APIs: Design fictions of everyday brain-computer interface adoption. DIS '18. Honorable mention.

James Pierce, Sarah Fox, Nick Merrill, Richmond Wong, Carl DiSalvo. An Interface Without a User: An exploratory design study of online privacy policies and digital legalese. DIS '18.

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

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.

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)

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

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

About me

I grew up in Los Angeles and now live in the East Bay, Ohlone territory. My father is a retired journalist & screenwriter who is much more interesting than I am.

ffff at berkeley edu
(my public key)