Consumer Brain Control Headset Opens Door To Wireless Mind Gaming Using Nordic 2.4-GHz Transceivers

Nov 15, 2010
 

The EPOC consumer wireless headset, from Emotiv, can reliably distinguish between unique electrical (EEG) brain pattern signatures produced when a wearer simply 'thinks' of performing various computer game-applicable actions (left/right, push/pull, lift/drop, rotate, vanish), pulls certain facial expressions, or experiences certain emotions. In operation, brain wave data from 14 independent sensors on the headset is transmitted to a USB wireless dongle using Nordic Semiconductor ULP 2.4GHz transceivers

Ultra low power (ULP) RF specialist Nordic Semiconductor ASA recently announces that pioneering wireless mind-control specialist, Emotiv, is employing Nordic 2.4GHz proprietary transceivers in the off-the-shelf EPOC Neuroheadset platform that Emotiv is now actively targeting at the mainstream consumer gaming industry.

The Emotiv EPOC headset is essentially a wireless, real-time brain wave (EEG) acquisition device optimized for consumer use that uses 14 non-invasive sensors to measure unique brain wave signatures produced when a wearer simply 'thinks' of up to 13 gaming-applicable cognitive actions: left/right, push/pull, lift/drop, rotate in six dimensions, and vanish. (What this means, for instance, is that if the wearer thinks 'push' a gaming object will be propelled away from them, and if they think 'pull', it will be drawn towards them.)

But the headset – which additionally incorporates a gyroscope to detect movement – is more than just a brain-powered joystick: It can also detect facial expressions and even emotional states (e.g. excitement, calmness, tension, frustration, engagement) and so 'knows' how the gamer is feeling or responding, which means on-screen characters or games could be designed to respond 'empathetically'.

In operation, the EPOC headset requires no specialist training or equipment (such as a trained technician or conductive gels) to use beyond a simple on-screen guided initial setup and learn procedure (that can be designed as part of a game) to ensure all 14 sensors (located on self-adjusting arms) are correctly positioned and making adequate electrical contact with the user's head. Uniquely in the case of the EPOC headset, this includes being able to operate through human hair – a natural electrical insulator. (See 'About the EPOC Neuroheadset technology' below for more detailed information on how the headset works.)

"What each of the 14 EPOC sensors is doing is taking 128, 16-bit sample 'snapshots' – every second – of the electrical fluctuations [EEG brain wave signals] resulting from the chemical activity of billions of active neurons in the brain measured on the µV scale," explains Geoff Mackellar, Research Manager and CTO at Emotiv.

This data is then transmitted using a proprietary Nordic 2.4GHz transceiver to a twin transceiver located in a USB wireless dongle plugged into a computer USB port. The ultra low power operational characteristics of the Nordic transceivers helps the EPOC's rechargeable lithium-polymer battery to run for up to 14 hours of continuous operation between charges – enough to satisfy even the most hard-core gamers.

"What all this means is that gamers can now interact with the virtual world by the power of thought alone," continues Mackellar. "And this will enrich the gaming experience beyond all recognition as it will allow gamers to interact with gaming content in entirely new and seemingly magic ways that can include accurate emotional responses from virtual characters. In fact it could be just what the gaming market needs to take it to the next 'must have' product level."

"But even this could be just the tip of the iceberg," adds Tan Le, co-founder and president of Emotiv. "I believe that our wireless mind-control technology has begun a trend that means that one day, gamers may not need an input device like a joystick or gamepad at all to play a game, instead they will interact directly with the virtual gaming world by using the power of thought alone. And although the initial target for our product is the global consumer gaming industry, the potential is there to transform the way that we interact with all machines in the future."

"The Emotiv EPOC platform is a truly fantastic example of the leading edge of consumer electronics design," says Ståle Ytterdal, Nordic's Director of Marketing and Sales in Asia. "It has laid down the technological foundation to create a brand new 'mind gaming' segment within the global gaming industry by offering reliable operation at a consumer pricing point. As such it is truly an honor to have Nordic's ULP wireless technology involved in enabling a product of such ground-breaking magnitude."

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Written By: Lawrence Beimel
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