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VR Interfaces: Emotive Systems: Project Epoc


Overview of Emotive Systems: Project Epoc
Emotiv Systems? EPOC, is a brain-machine interface intended for the commercial gaming market. The intent is to allow gamers and by extension those in social virtual worlds, to control their actions within the game/environment with their thoughts, expressions and emotions.

At a recommended retail price of $300 US dollars, its clear that the Epoc is not the state of the art, in terms of electrode number and complexity. However, what it does do for the first time, is offer brain control of computer applications at a price within the average person?s budget.

The headset will detect 30 potential mental commands. Its electrode arrays reach across the scalp area, and detect and differentiate thought patterns. Unlike in lab BMI, which integrates to your thoughts directly, with the Epoc, what you actually think does not matter: The headset will learn to associate that thought, with the intended action. It is however advised that you think ?left? rather than ?banana? to go left, otherwise, you will end up confusing yourself. Cognitive actions detected are: push, pull, lift, drop and rotate. Each of these occur on five different axis, giving full freedom of movement. Six commands x five axis = 30 commands.

In addition to the thought control, the unit detects the position of facial muscles, particularly those on the forehead, cheeks, nose and mouth. This allows it to work out what emotional state the user is in: immersion, excitement, meditation, tension or frustration. These states are recorded, and can be transferred as commands to the VR. What actually happens to those commands is down to the software interface. A game could adjust difficulty levels, whereas a social VR could show them as avatar emotion.

A second function of the muscle recognition system is that this allows the system to pick up on movements that do not correspond to known emotional states. Facial expressions such as smile, laugh, wink, crossed eyes, shock (eyebrows raised), anger (eyebrows furrowed), horizontal eye movement, smirk and grimace (clenched teeth) are all possible. Again, these can be interpreted in game / in world however the user desires.

?Being able to control a computer with your mind is the ultimate quest of human-machine interaction,? said Nam Do, CEO of Emotiv Systems in 2008. ?When integrated into games, virtual worlds and other simulated environments, this technology will have a profound impact on the user's experience. Since announcing our prototype last year, we've made dramatic technological breakthroughs in order to create the first wearable, affordable brain-controlled gaming headset. We're excited to see our vision realised this year and look forward to enabling gamers out there to experience brain-controlled gaming for themselves.?

Finally, as almost a piece de la resistance, the Epoc incorporates an internal gyroscope, to detect six degrees of head movement, as a third and final layer of interface methods. This means it can detect the exact position of the user?s head relative to straight at any time, giving the ability to use head movements like a joystick, or mouse.

?The use of BCI technology represents a potential breakthrough in human-machine interfaces, changing the realm of possibilities not only for games, but in the way that humans and computers interact,? said Paul Ledak, vice president, IBM Digital Convergence. ?As interactions in virtual environments become more complex, mice and keyboards alone may soon be inadequate. BCI is an important component of the 3D Internet and the future of virtual communication.?

Epoc was originally supposed to ship to the general public, fourth quarter 2008. It has since been delayed by Emotiv, with plans to ship sometime in 2009.

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