Behold "The Epoc" by Emotiv, the first consumer brain-wave driven controller. Note the built in battery, gyroscope and sensors.
The new headset from Emotiv can read your mind, or more precisely, your mind's electrical signals

Researchers have made great inroad into probing the mysteries of the mind.  IBM recently fully simulated a mouse brain using its Blue Gene supercomputers.  Researchers also have gained key insight into the nervous system and the senses, learning for the first time how the nervous system changes on the fly to create the sense of smell.

Now researchers have put their hard earned discoveries to the ultimate test -- video gaming.  DailyTech had previously reported on OCZ's progress in developing a "brain mouse" a long running project of OCZ's, which was demoed to DailyTech at CES '08.  Now another gaming company will challenge OCZ with plans to release to market a consumer mind control device for video gaming, late this year.

Tech firm Emotiv developed the advanced mind-controlled gaming device.  The device, titled "The Epoc," will retail for $299 and provide advanced control by reading electrical signals generated among the brain.  Among its key features is its ability to detect over 30 facial expressions, emotions and actions based on these signals.

OCZ vice president of technology development Dr. Michael Schuette is excited about the announcement.  "It is great ot see more efforts going into the same brain-computer-interface direction."

Tan Le, president of US/Australian firm Emotiv, says her company has achieved the first commercial grade brain-computer interface.  She describes its basic premise and potential, stating, "It picks up electrical activity from the brain and sends wireless signals to a computer.  It allows the user to manipulate a game or virtual environment naturally and intuitively."

Ms. Le describes the controller in more detail and Emotiv's unique line of business, explaining, "Emotiv is a neuro-engineering company and we've created a brain computer interface that reads electrical impulses in the brain and translates them into commands that a video game can accept and control the game dynamically."

A point emphasized by Ms. Le is that while the technology is existing, it has never been brought to the consumer market before.  She sums up this breakthrough, stating, "This is the first headset that doesn't require a large net of electrodes, or a technician to calibrate or operate it and [doesn't] require gel on the scalp.  It also doesn't cost tens of thousands of dollars."

The Epoc relies on a technology known as Electroencephalography (EEG), a method of detecting of electrical signals from the brain.  The technology, which has been used in the medical field for over a hundred years spawned the idea of a brain-based controller in the 1970s.

One useful application of The Epoc in video gaming is to control avatars, virtual digitalized representations of the user.  By detecting facial expressions, a user wearing the headset who smiles will be mimicked by their in-game avatar.  The ability to insert facial expressions, such as winks and smiles into games will give them new depth according to Ms. Le.  For example, she said, If you laughed or felt happy after killing a character in a game then your virtual buddy could admonish you for being callous."

The device is worn comfortably on the users head and communicates wirelessly via a USB dongle plugged into the user's PC.  Besides its EEG sensors it also makes use of a built in gyroscope.  Among the supported abilities provided are excitement, meditation, tension and frustration; facial expressions such as smile, laugh, wink, shock (eyebrows raised), anger (eyebrows furrowed); and cognitive actions such as push, pull, lift, drop and rotate (on six different axis).

The device allows users to manipulate objects like never before in three dimensional game space, leaving many to fantasize what a game of Half Life 2 might be like with the device.  However the device isn't all fun and games.  Emotiv is also working with IBM to market the device to provide "strategic enterprise business markets and virtual worlds".  The device and its brethren are keys to developing a workable 3D internet and virtual communication, in the future, said Paul Ledak, vice president, IBM Digital Convergence.

Schuette adds, "As to what Emotiv has accomplished, it is virtually impossible for us to compare it with the Neural Impulse Actuator since we have never tested it, nor do we know of anybody outside their company who has."

While "The Epoc" may be a bit pricey, congratulations to Emotiv is deserved, for creating the first true consumer gaming brain interface.  The only remaining test is to see how well it can handle an intense round of competitive gaming.

“Then they pop up and say ‘Hello, surprise! Give us your money or we will shut you down!' Screw them. Seriously, screw them. You can quote me on that.” -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng referencing patent trolls

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