Epoc-h of Gaming

emotiv1.jpgImagine controlling a game of ‘Call of Duty’ or ‘Condemned’ all through the mind. I know it is quite indigestible at first, but just the thought of it widens the eye and brings a wicked smile on the face. Anything to do with one’s mind conquering ‘the’ machine brings that kind of a feeling. For a long time, most of us must have imagined a day when gaming would be controlled by body motion suits, brainwave headsets, and all the stuff you wish you had from your favorite Sci-Fi film. Over the years, a multitude of products have come to the front that made claims similar, or identical, to Emotiv and its Epoc.

Emotiv Systems is a pioneer in brain computer interface technology. Its mission is to create the ultimate interface for the next-generation of man-machine interaction. It does this by evolving the interaction between human beings and electronic devices beyond the limits of conscious interface. Emotiv creates technologies that allow machines to take both conscious and non-conscious inputs directly from your brain. These technologies include a hardware and software platform, that is being licensed to application developers and other third parties worldwide. Emotiv is announcing the world’s first consumer neuroheadset, the Emotiv EPOC as part of a complete product offering for consumers.

It’s a headset with three separate arms that clutch around your head. Each arm contains innumerable sensors that detect signals fired within the brain. In its current form, wires jut from the device, making it look like some kind of a whacky science project. Its appearance is inconsequential though — the real magic actually is apparent just not by looking at the headset but to appreciate the potential of the device which calls for the actual action.

The Emotiv EPOC detects over 30 different expressions, emotions and actions these include: immersion, excitement, meditation, tension and frustration; facial expressions such as smile, laugh, wink, crossed eyes, shock (eyebrows raised), anger (eyebrows furrowed), horizontal eye movement, smirk and grimace (clenched teeth); and cognitive actions such as push, pull, lift, drop and rotate (on six different axis) as well as the ability to make objects disappear. A lifelike real experience is what results. Games will be able to respond dynamically to player emotion. Players can more easily replicate the magical or fantastical aspects of gaming by controlling certain actions and expressions and manipulating objects in the game using their brains instead of a keyboard or controller. A headset on your head, the mind mastering the situation and the hands free to relax- the idea is in itself mind-boggling. In addition to these detections, the Emotiv EPOC incorporates a gyroscope, which enables the camera or cursor to be controlled by head motions. The experience only gets better.

Imagine Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. With the Epoc, players can cast spells and move items by simply thinking about them. The game still requires the controller for movement, it isn’t that the Epoc can’t make players move; it’s just that using a controller adds a physical dynamic to the game; an extra dimension which is important or we’d be sloth species in no time. Imagine having to control your heartbeat that pounds excessively with excitement while playing the game to slow down a move or something. The imagination only grows wilder.

While Emotiv’s octopus looking headset will initially be developed for video games, it could eventually be used in medicine, virtual reality, robotics, education and many other areas. The technology is based on electroencephalography, which has been around for over 100 years and is currently used to study sleep patterns and epilepsy by analyzing electrical activity in the brain. The breakthrough, notes Emotiv Systems’ President Tan Le, is in the software algorithm that decodes a person’s thoughts by analyzing the electrical impulses in the brain. Many waves originate deep inside the brain and radiate outward. By time the signal reaches the outside of the brain, or cerebral cortex, the brain can appear to be firing randomly. According to Le, Emotiv’s software algorithm “unfolds the cortex and takes us closer to the source of the signal.”

The device and a game bundled with it will cost $299 and will hit the US market this Christmas. While some games will be specifically designed for the headset, Le notes that it could be used in any computer game. Where Criss Angel’s mind bending a spoon would make the viewers wide-eyed dumbfounded, well now you can do that too, it’s only an Epoc away. Welcome to the future.

Tania Gupta

[Image courtesy: http://www.gameguru.in/images/emotiv-systems-project-epoc.jpg]