Emerging Tech


Emotiv Promises a New Window Onto Your Brain

You likely already know the things you like to do, like watching a sporting event, as well as the things that you don’t like to do, such as sitting in traffic.

We all experience feelings when participating in such activities, and those feelings form the basis of a personal body of knowledge that we draw on to know whether we like doing a thing or not. Discounting philosophy, theology and other studies of the human condition, that’s life.

However, it’s all a bit unscientific. It’s also pedestrian for this day and age, and doesn’t play into another element of the human condition: mankind’s desire for self-awareness and curiosity.

Emotiv reckons it’s come up with a solution. Namely, what if you could measure your brain’s responses to those mundane activities, number-crunch those measurements and come up with scientific insight? Analytics for the brain, in other words.

What Is It?

The Emotiv Insight device is a wireless headset that tracks and records brainwaves and generates data.

Tracking measurements include attention, focus, engagement, interest, relaxation, excitement and stress levels. Basic mental command interpretation is also included and consists of levitate, rotate, push, pull and disappear. There is also detection of facial expressions such as blinks, frowns, expressions of surprise and smiles.

An API is also part of the package. The device is compatible with multiple operating systems, including mobile ones like Android.

Emotiv’s tag line is, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single thought.”

Initial marketing pitches on the developer’s website suggest the device will be pitched for optimizing brain fitness and performance; measuring your or your family’s cognitive health and wellbeing; and creating applications with the API and analysis tools.

Technical Details

The headset consists of a five-channel radio for producing Bluetooth signals and dry polymer sensors that don’t require saline. A 480 mAh battery is included.

The headset works by monitoring the electrical impulse that gets emitted by brain nerve cells called neurons. Five sensors measure these impulses; two are reference sensors. The device covers multiple parts of the brain, resulting in in-depth brain activity data, the developer says.

The Numbers

San Francisco-based Emotiv Lifesciences, founded by Tan Le, currently has more than 3,000 backers who are pledging a whopping sum of more than US$950,000 toward a $100,000 goal. It’s funded, in other words. The funding period ends on Sept. 16, 2013.

Pledges start at $10 for a thanks and a badge. A pledge of $229 gets you the device and a badge. Pledges of $429 get you a device along with the software needed to display and process the data, plus a badge.

The estimated shipping time frame is March 2014.

The Upsides

Emotiv’s promise is compelling, and applications could include gaming, hands-free control, accessibility, smart environments, transportation, defense and so on.

Bioinformatics is a particularly hot subject, and we’re seeing a surge in interest by retail channels in wearable tech, like personal fitness analytics products. This product is a logical next step at retail.

While the developer hasn’t set pricing, a Kickstarter-pledge pricing point at $229 indicates this could be consumer-accessible.

The API and drivers package is hugely important, and the developer is right to emphasize this.

The Downsides

As with many of these crowdfunding projects, the developer isn’t clear as to how the back end works. There are no specifics on the developer’s website or Kickstarter page as to exactly how the brain activity is translated into “meaningful data you can understand.”

We would like to see some screen captures and more data as to exactly what can be learned by using the product.

Having said that, it’s perfectly fine for the developer to be reliant on other developers taking the SDK or API and creating those analytical tools. The developer simply needs to be clear as to what exists thus far.

Patrick Nelson has been a professional writer since 1992. He was editor and publisher of the music industry trade publication Producer Report and has written for a number of technology blogs. Nelson studied design at Hornsey Art School and wrote the cult-classic novel Sprawlism. His introduction to technology was as a nomadic talent scout in the eighties, where regular scrabbling around under hotel room beds was necessary to connect modems with alligator clips to hotel telephone wiring to get a fax out. He tasted down and dirty technology, and never looked back.

Leave a Comment

Please sign in to post or reply to a comment. New users create a free account.

Technewsworld Channels