by Liat Clark
The makers behind the £200 mindreading Epoc headset have smashed their Kickstarter campaign target, raising a whopping $543,372 (£350,382) for a new version of the headset, with 38 days left to go.
The aim of the campaign is to help the makers, Emotiv, reboot the consumer technology and fund a sleeker version for training your brain that incorporates things like head motion for future applications in fitness and gaming. They’ve already built a lighter, sensor-packed prototype, but need the startup funds to get it to market. There will also be an API released to developers( along with a starter kit), who can capture the EEG and motion data to build new applications on Android, iOS, OSX, Linux and Windows platforms.
“The Emotiv insight lets you capture and understand what’s going on in your brain in real time,” founder Tan Le says in the campaign film. The five-channel wireless headset reads brainwaves and translates them into easily readable data for the user. It’s been used for synching with computer programs and playing games, moving electronic toys with a little concentration and even composing music. The reboot, however, is designed to introduce a more “skeletal” — i.e. more comfortable, less cyborg-looking device — that could be used for everyday brain training that’s a lot more fun than a Nintendo DS arithmetic-based “game”.
With the Emotiv Insight, the company has increased the number of inbuilt polymer biosensors to five to help users and developers acquire richer data. They will cover the brain’s major regions including the frontal cortex, where our executive functions are carried out, and those regions controlling spatial coordination and sound and visual input.
If the campaign reaches the $1 million (£650,000) mark, which is highly likely considering it got halfway there within a week, it will build in a six-axis inertial sensor to the new headset. This is made up of a three-axis gyroscope and a three-axis accelerometer, both of which can gather data in low resolution (8 bit) or high (12 bit). What it means is the sensor will pick up full head motion and be able to combine this with EEG data to take readings during physical activity. This could be useful in an Oculus Rift-style virtual environment, helping make the experience even more realistic by pulling in more accurate eye and head motion activity. It can also do nifty things like recognise a nod or head shake — things that, if they were inbuilt into Google Glass, would make walking down the street commanding the technology a little less embarrassing, without the need for vocal commands. It will even recognise far more subtle motions, such as smiles and blinks.
The inertial sensors are also designed for use with computer programs — for example, designing a CAD file would be as simply as adjusting your gaze. So although its founding premise is to help users train their brain to focus and use their full attention (for instance, using thoughts to control an electronic helicopter involves total focus and relaxation), once you have this nailed there are plenty of other constructive applications it can be used for.
Emotiv’s initial incarnation has already proven popular, and its Kickstarter success is proof that the support-system for consumer-grade EEG systems is a healthy one. Five backers pledged the top amount of $5,000 each for the chance to test Emotiv Insight in beta and join the company for a Founders dinner in San Francisco. If people are willing to pay $5,000 to try it before anyone else, the possibilities for a headset priced at a couple hundred pounds (the new kit has not been priced yet) are huge.