MIT Student’s Sorting Hat Can Pick Your House by What’s in Your Head

We’ve all imagined what it would be like to nervously perch on the stool as the Sorting Hat is lowered onto our heads, knowing our innermost thoughts are about to fall under the scrutiny of Hogwarts’ resident sentient headgear.

While that exact experience may remain out of reach, Massachusetts Institute of Technology student Nataliya Kosmyna has gotten one step closer, creating a hat that can actually Sort you into a Hogwarts House based solely on what you’re thinking.



The Boston Globe reports Kosmyna, a postdoctoral fellow with the MIT Media Lab, developed a system of 14 noninvasive electrodes that capture brain activity and use electroencephalography-based brain-computer interfaces to detect what the wearer is imagining. She also created the algorithm and software that make the “magic” happen.



Kosmyna says she purchased a Sorting Hat costume prop from Amazon to cover the electrode device in something more friendly and fun.

It’s a ‘magic’ object that kids know what it is and what it does. This kind of Hollywood touch works very well.

As for the Sorting process, Kosmyna took her inspiration from Pottermore’s quiz. She shows images featuring two choices to her subject and asks them to simply think about the object of their choosing. She says the frequencies and activity in the brain that result when a person is visualizing a specific item can be registered, and the computer proceeds to use what you’re imagining to determine your House.

The hat will tell you, ‘Oh, you are Gryffindor!’ It will not only tell you the House, but what you are actually thinking about – and you don’t need to pronounce a single word. You just need to be very focused.



Kosmyna’s ultimate goal for the technology is to help boost students’ self-esteem and improve their academic performance. As for her own Hogwarts House, Kosmyna is a proud Gryffindor – though she admits she may have taken a page from Harry Potter’s book and given the hat a little nudge in that direction.

The thing is, I’m biased. I know how [the system] works.

What do you think of Kosmyna’s exciting invention? Let us know in the comments!

Brienne Green

I'm a passionate journalist, feeding my wizarding world obsession on MuggleNet by night, forever trying to find ways to work "Potter" references into high school sports stories by day. When not writing, I can be often be found making quiche at 2 a.m., playing Queen tunes on the piano, or talking (and talking and talking) about Sirius Black.