Australia-based electronics company Emotiv is one of the leaders in brain-computer interfaces. The company was founded in 2003 by inventor and engineer Neil Weste, neuroscientist Professor Allan Snyder, and technology entrepreneurs Nam Do, and Tan Le. Since its inception, Emotiv has advanced the field of brain-computer interface (BCI) research through the development of the EPOC neuroheadset, which utilizes the latest developments in neurotechnology, neuroimaging and high-resolution electroencephalography (EEG).

How EPOC Works

According to Emotiv, the EPOC system is comprised of a headset that is designed to create a human-computer interface by accessing raw EEG data. The headset has 18 sockets, 16 of which hold sensor pads, while the remaining two are secondary reference sensors. The primary sensors pick up electrical activity from the surface of the brain. The device connects wirelessly to any PC running MAC OSX, Windows or Linux. A built-in gyroscope, which detects the user’s head movements including up, down, left, right, forward, backward and sway. It then sends this information to the PC, allowing the software to react to the user’s spatial reference.

Each time you have a thought or feeling, your brain emits a certain pattern of electrical signals. Although the pattern remains consistent for each thought, they may vary slightly from person to person. The Emotiv headset, combined with the EmoKey software, creates a direct and personal interface between the user and the computer because it learns to recognize the user’s particular brain signals and to relate them to specific commands. This way the user can control his or her computer using facial expressions, emotions and thoughts. Just a smile can allow the user to interact with digital applications, such as games or instant messaging.

Uses for EPOC Technology

Emotiv’s EPOC technology allows users to control their computer without having to touch a single key. It has a number of potential applications across several different fields, including the following:

Gaming and Virtual Reality

Emotiv allows gamers to ditch the joystick or controller and manipulate their virtual environment directly with their minds. Once the system recognizes the user’s brain signals, commands such as lifting, dropping and pushing an object, making an object vanish or jumping can be performed merely by thinking. The built-in software’s facial expression recognition can even allow the user to make friends or scare away enemies within the game.   

Creative expression

The EPOC neuroheadset allows the user to create interactive art, music and color that responds to emotions such as boredom, excitement, frustration and engagement. 

Marketing and Advertising

Because the system can learn to recognize emotions and facial expressions, Emotiv could conceivably expand the fields of market research and advertising by gathering data about the user’s response to and level of engagement with material presented to them. 

Research

Emotiv is definitely providing new inroads for brain research, particularly with the more advanced EEG headset. The system may be used to gather metadata on how individual brains function. This could lead to a deeper understanding of critical and cognitive thinking, which in turn could help medical experts learn more about mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or degenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. 

Assistive Technology

The Emotiv headset has a wide range of potential applications within the field of assistive rehabilitation. For example, it could be used to manipulate prosthetic devices, to maneuver a wheelchair, turn on lights or open windows, and perhaps even control an assistive robot.

The Beginning of a New EPOC

Emotiv co-founder Tan Le sees a bright future for the company’s technology. In a March 2014 interview with JWT Intelligence, Le said, “What we’re seeing now, and what we’ll see in the next 12 to 18 months, is a new landscape around wearables. It’s basically wearable technology for your brain, or as we coin it, Brainwear. So we’re moving it toward not only measuring the brain, moving it into a real-life context, but also making it a very fashion-centric product that people won’t mind wearing for longer durations of time, as well as to chart different types of activities you might do.”

The EPOC neuroheadset is currently available at a reasonably affordable $299. The package includes the EmoKey software that will run in the background and lets you create profiles and interact with your existing games and applications.

Image credit: Emotive

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