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Input Devices Games Science

Brain-Control Gaming Headset Launching Dec. 21 112

An anonymous reader writes "Controlling computers with our minds may sound like science fiction, but one Australian company claims to be able to let you do just that. The Emotiv device has been garnering attention at trade shows and conferences for several years, and now the company says it is set to launch the Emotiv EPOC headset on December 21. PC Authority spoke to co-founder Nam Do about the Emotiv technology and its potential as a mainstream gaming interface." One wonders what kind of adoption they expect with a $299 price tag.
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Brain-Control Gaming Headset Launching Dec. 21

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  • by EdZ ( 755139 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @06:31AM (#30308808)
    Looks like it actually is approaching a reasonable number of electrodes, unlike other the bunch of other 'brain control' devices (a pair of electrodes on your forehead does not an effective EEG make). Still too few for any sort of fine control, but you might just be able to get 2d bang-bang direction control going with a large amount of practice.
    Of course, if it costs something ridiculous, then it's probably easier to make your own [].
    • Compared to the costs of getting all the components for the OpenEEG and piecing everything together, it's probably a better choice for most people to go with the Emotiv set. Besides, if you're not happy with an OpenEEG you only have yourself to be unhappy with, if you're bored with the Emotiv you can always send it back and demand a refund.
    • From that site: "The cost of a complete system is 200 to 400 USD. The exact figure depends a lot on where you buy parts from, and whether you buy or make your own electrodes."

      I'll take the one made in a factory ty very much. Nice thing is that these devices are (oddly enough) fairly simple. So even if they give us nothing making OSS/drivers off of the emotive device will probably not be a big problem.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 03, 2009 @08:11AM (#30309140)

      As someone who has done research int brain-computer interfaces, most BCI devices created for games are really measuring EMG, which is electrical noise created by muscle movements. A pair of electrodes on your forehead can only really effectively measure small muscle movements in your forehead.

      On the other hand, this looks like a regular 16 electrode cap with one ground and one reference.

      I wonder how they bypassed the need for gel...

      By the way, $299 is actually a fairly reasonable price for a good cap. I wonder what the biological amplifier costs, though. If it is included in the price (or within the cap) then $299 really is a very good price for such a device.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        You can definitely record useful EEG data on neonates using forehead electrodes without gel. It's called a Cerebral Function Monitor []. It looks like there is research in using it with adults [] too. These are mostly used in patients that are comatose or (medically) paralysed, so I suspect there would be issues with interference from motor nerve signals although these would have a very different pattern so I suspect could be filtered.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 03, 2009 @12:55PM (#30312172)

        I have the development release and the electrodes use cotton-like "wicks", which are wetted with saline. While I am not familiar with other EEG devices, this does not require an external amplifier, and is connected wirelessly to a USB dongle.

      • by wmain ( 636792 )
        To quote their PDF "There is also the issue that brain research has advanced but we are not too concerned with the dissection of the signals into specific origins of neuronal / muscular groups, rather, as mentioned above, it is the synergism of all physiological activities that is the critical signal we are trying to read and understand to the point where we can use it." [] also "The new headbands we are using embrace sensors based on
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Beefmancer ( 1260556 )
        As someone *else* familiar with BCI research, I can back that up, $299 would be a good deal if the software is any better than openEEG. Buyers should be aware however that their website makes some really far-out claims for the device, and that the marketing is realllly shady. Plus, as I've pointed out here before, I've heard firsthand from one of the biggest names in the field that he met with the President of this company who failed to demonstrate that this device could do anything. Even the best in aca
  • Conductant? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @06:31AM (#30308812) Homepage Journal

    Back when I had regular EEGs a technician would spend about ten minutes squeezing conductive cream onto my scalp before clipping the electrodes on. If you don't use a conductive liquid your signal is going to have to pass through your hair, which doesn't sound good for their N/N ratio. So what's it going to be? Shaved heads or washing your hair after gaming?

  • interesting (Score:2, Informative)

    It will be very interesting to see how this works out. It tested the last "Brain Control Device" (i think it was from a german company) at the Games Convention 2008 and was very surprised to see it working...with some learning of course.
  • Great video (Score:2, Interesting)

    After watching the video, a very specific quotation comes to mind.

    Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.
    - Andy Finkel

    If you look at the hardware itself, there is a gyroscope attached. Hence, when the fat white guy wants to lift the stone, he leans his head back. I suppose you are to watch him wave his hands, but the real action is going on literally on his head.

    Now if someone could build an iPhone app that can do this, we'd have all the same functionality at an even hi

    • by jo42 ( 227475 )

      You would look rather silly with an iPhone or iPod touch duct taped to your head...

    • I don't think you were paying very close attention to the video, really. You can see that he is keeping his head pretty still during some of the moves. I believe the gyroscope is just providing locational information to the system.

      • Ok. I'll be the first to troll :D

        Isn't the point of brain-control that you use your *brain* to control stuff? What's with all the handwaving? If I wanted to spend ten seconds to make a single-dimension movement, surely a mouse and a mouse-mat covered in golden syrup would be cheaper?

        • Don't think that's a troll. We were actually discussing this very thing in a thread later on. I suggested that since we are not used to controlling objects with our brains that it's necessary to "prime the cognitive pump" by using hand gestures. I also wonder if it would be possible to train to do this independently. If so, it might be possible to train someone that's in a vegetative state, for example.

          • Yah but surely there might be some equivalent to subvocalization, for hand-movements?

            Are you suggesting that by moving the hands of someone in a vegetative state, that might prime their cognitive pumps? If so, I'd have thought that this would only work from within - i.e. it's the desire and effort to move the arms that primes the pumps, not the actual moving of the arms.

            Disclaimer: I have no good reason for believing this other than my own half-assed thoughts on the subject.

            • No no - I was actually suggesting the opposite. Basically that the reason the researchers were moving their hands was because we are not used to moving objects with only our minds. Therefore, the physical motion was the "priming" that was needed in conjunction with the mental movement. Once we are more practiced at "using the force" to move things, the hand movements shouldn't be necessary. And it's at this point that a person in a vegetative state could use the technology. I wonder how difficult it would

  • By which I mean that purchasers won't have time to find out that it's a useless POS trinket until it's too late to return it. Nice.

  • Controlling computers with our minds may sound like science fiction, but one Australian company claims to be able to let you do just that.

    Am I missing something here? OCZ's Neural Impulse Actuator [], a similar product, has been out since for about a year.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by citizenr ( 871508 )
      OCZ one doesnt work at all, or barely.
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        This one likely won't work either - or, at least, it'll just do EMG (electromyography) and pick up jaw clenches and blinks and whatnot.

        EEGs are so contaminated with noise (both from the brain and from muscle movement) that pulling out single events is tricky. Studies that analyze EEG data usually have to average a lot of events together to get rid of the noise (ERP). There are a few ERP components (scalp potential changes) that are pretty well-known and usually prominent enough to maybe get on a single-tria

  • It doesn't matter if it costs $300. I'm sure they'll be able to find people willing to pay that much as long as it's not complete garbage.

    I mean, if you look at amBX, it's basically a bunch of glowy LED lights and a speaker system, and it runs in about the same price range.

  • $299 is not a high price tag. I clearly remember any gaming console experience I wanted to try was *always* around the ~$300 pricetag, from the last two decades of even recently (Xbox360, PS3, Wii, etc.). The main points in any survival and success of a gaming system is: 1) NOT being a hyped up, terrible design and cumbersome usability, 2) It's unique and starts a mad, new and wild gaming experience that everyone wants to try (a la Guitar Hero/Rockband) because point #1 lived up to it's purpose.
  • Right now, it's a squid from Strange Days, which won't have as happy connotations for everyone as a StarTrek communicator.

    • Yes, all four of us who saw that movie (mind you, I own it on LD and again on DVD) will be spooked out, right? Wrong. That movie made me want a record-and-playback rig in the worst way, I don't care if they shot Me Phi Me in it.

    • by dido ( 9125 )

      The squids from Strange Days are essentially the same as the simstim units you see in William Gibson's Cyberspace Trilogy. Sensory output devices used for passive viewing. This is a crude version of the input system of a cyberspace deck, which is supposed to interact with the user's thoughts.

  • Misleading (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jeffrey_Walsh VA ( 1335967 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @08:46AM (#30309284)
    Should be brain-controlled
  • Other Applications (Score:5, Insightful)

    by smitty777 ( 1612557 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @09:48AM (#30309556) Journal

    I'm a bit surprised (or maybe not) that the focus of the discussions has been on the gaming aspect of the device. I know it's not perfect, there are a lot of bugs to work out, and it's been around for a while, but I can see tremendous application and potential for this technology. This could provide quadriplegics with access to software, allow another interaction pathway for those with their hands occupied on critical tasks (pilots, surgeons, police).

    I wonder how much the hand gestures were required to move the objects? I'm sure it's a way to "cognitively prime the pump" at this point, but could it be done without the gestures? Or could someone learn to do it without them?

    • That's specifically talked about in the article:

      PC Authority: Many people must talk to you about making apps for people disabilities, particularly those lacking mobility. How do you see your company working in those areas?

      Nam Do: We're already working with a lot of people, to make applications for disabled people. There are quite a few applications we're [already] seeing from independent developers just trying to create these things.

      For example, some of these people can't even move. So things like the keyboard are very important. Just by thinking about it, they can put words together and start to communicate.

      PC Authority: I think that's amazing. It's great to have the gaming part, but that could really transform people's lives.

      Nam Do: Absolutely. Even though gaming has a lot of following, you don't realise that when you're talking about the community at large - a lot of the applications are non-gaming. Like medical or healthcare applications.

      For example, university researchers and doctors are currently working on applications to treat depression and addiction - without drugs. It's a state of brain. You fall into it and stay in it. So now if you could predict that, you could have different brain exercises to keep you out of that mindset.

      • Thanks Metamechanical - I skipped the last couple of paragraphs of the interview. As a UI designer, I still think folks are getting a little tunnel visioned on this. To me, it's almost like saying the mouse can only be used for menu opening or something. I think there are a lot of possibilities here that we will soon discover.

        • It's a funny proposition, because I would think this would be just awful for gaming. Don't misunderstand - I'm sure they've put a great deal of work into refining the product. Sadly, something like this sits in a strange spot - the applications where it would be best suited aren't really huge growth or profit sectors, so even a successful technology would languish in those sectors, and take decades to develop. On the other hand, by gambling with the gaming market, especially during a period where console

          • I hope you're not right about that. I know within my field there is always a huge push to find the next greatest thing for UI interaction. So we now have touch screens, tabletops, virtual displays, etc. - there were some pretty amazing advancements @ CHI this year in that area. It seems like the trend is definitely going towards "embedded" interactions, certainly. I'm not sure how we can continue in that direction without embracing something along these lines. So, get ready to put on your VR contact len

    • It seems like the frustrating lag between thinking it and being able to "type" it out with less and less mobility would be greatly reduced with something like this. I think it's a *huge* contribution on the part of this company if the scientific community, for example, can continue to make use of Stephen Hawking's brilliant mind as his motor function continues to deteriorate. Which is, of course, to put aside the obvious implications for communication by others in physically incapacitated states.
      • That's spot on. Something I keep coming back to but haven't really been able to formulate is the use of a device like this for patients who are "comatose". There was recently an article online (ref?) about someone who had come out of a supposed coma after several decades. He stated that he was frustrated to the point of despair because he was unable to communicate while "trapped" in his body (IIRC - there was some controversy on that). Could we use this to technology to communicate with such people? I

    • That was my first thought actually. One of my closest friends growing up was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) and is now bedridden with absolutely no muscle movement capability at the age of 23. He has been watching TV for about a year now and, while most of us try to visit him as often as possible, living 200+ miles away makes that difficult. I can only imagine the hellish boredom that kid goes through to pass the time. That being said, a cap that he could wear to play video games would at least g
  • would probably automatically zoom to 3rd person, remove all armor/clothing, and hold at just the right angle for fapovision for all the guys playing night elf/bloood elf females.
  • There are two videos embedded in the linked article.

    The first one is an utter fail, leading to moments of awkward silence during the official presentation.

    The second one shows a guy performing simple taks: Moving a block into a certain direction. He does so not without making use of appropriate gestures: He either pushes imaginary obstacles away with his hand, lifts them up, or rotates them by circling his finger (block starts moving after 5 seconds or so)...

    The system surely has potential. As of now,

    • by mark-t ( 151149 )
      Worse, the second one looks suspiciously like a demo that wasn't even that well timed. If the device actually works, one could make an argument that the gesturing could be mostly for the sake of the video presentation and not actually required, because if the game had been purely mind-controlled, it would have looked even more like a rigged demo than it did in the video.
  • If you're already going to be wearing a funny headset, why not combine it with Johnny Lee Chung's [] head tracking technology and make the ULTIMATE gaming device (assuming the tech works...)
  • I wonder why he hasn't got anything like this yet. He's probably not into gaming, but it might help comunicating ;)
    • by IrquiM ( 471313 )

      He's been offered better voice boxes many times, but declined as the one he's using now (and has for a long time) is part of the phenomenon Stephen Hawking.

    • I think it would only be accepted by him if it came with a robotic exoskeleton.

  • by Bocaj ( 84920 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @10:33AM (#30309898) Homepage
    Really, everyone wearing one of these will swear,

    "Emotiv is the greatest company ever. I love all of their products. I am mortgaging my house to purchase more of their products. Emotiv is my friend. Emotive is good."

  • Memories of "special time" with my pervy uncle flood back into mind, can I sue the company for emotional damages?

  • That is a like a Baby's toy.....

    This is what they were talking about in Back to the Future part II....

  • Uhh it will make you a better pocket billiards player for sure!
  • It used to be somewhat creepy to try to talk to a gamer engrossed in play because they are usually slack jawed and drooling while their hands were mashing buttons at a million miles a minute, now it will be even more creepy as they just sit there and play the game and they aren't moving, just sitting there like lumps on a log with jaws slackened and playing a game....

    Just what we need, more zombie like gamers.

  • I looked into creating such a system a few years ago. After a bit of research, I decided I wasn't that brave -- certainyl the technology existed even then to do it, but here's what I ran into: requiring a person to learn (via biofeedback) to force certain brainwave patterns, and to repeat them often and for long periods of time, is not necessarily a Good Idea. What research I could find at the time showed that there may be potentially negative effects (inducing epilepsy was one such, in people who had no prior history). But more than that, I mostly found a huge unknown - there were few real studies on how this could affect a person.

    Until such a device can interpret thoughts as we have them, without requiring the user to "think" certain patterns... I think I'll hold off on buying mine.

  • One step closer to being able to play Angelic Layer.

    I claim dibs on the electric shock whips!

  • I am wondering if the included software will allow for EEG "band-specific" information to be derived from these devices. My daughter has ADD and could not use medications due to the severe side-effects she experienced, so we worked with some pioneering folks in the treatment uaing direct EEG bio-feedback training. Simplistically, ADD is a neurological condition where the active, cognitive brainwave activity found in most people is essentially "drowned out" by a typically lesser "volume" band of brainwave

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