It isn’t very often that we test-drive a gadget that genuinely has the power to save lives, but this one is something special. It’s called the Emotiv: an Australian-made headset that reads your brainwaves and lets you control everything from virtual cubes to real-life drones.
The Emotiv started its life as a Kickstarter project from Australian researcher Dr Geoffrey Mackellar. After the project successfully reached its funding goal, the company, Epoc, has been working to put wheels in motion on several different commercial applications for the headgear.
The first of which is a simple app, which connects to your phone via an ultra-low power form of Wi-Fi and a tiny dongle. From there, you record a baseline of your brain activity while wearing the headset, and you then start doing the activity you wish to track. Also, because the dongle is USB compatible, you can also use brain power on your Android smartphone too!
You can use the headset to monitor brainwaves during a mediation session, while watching TV, while reading a book or while playing games. Anything that relies on using brain-power, you can monitor.
Once you’re done, hit the finish button and a secure cloud analyses the data and sends you a report within minutes.
You can also use the headset to control real world objects, like flying around a Parrot AR Drone using nothing but your neural energy.
That’s a consumer application, but scientific uses include reading the brainwaves of paraplegic’s and even reading the brain activity of a paralysed patient on life support.
Other brainwave-detecting products have hit the market before like those from Neurosky which allow you to fly cute little proprietary helicopters or even move cat ears on your head, but we’re told by the Emotiv folks that they only track one part of the brain just above your eyebrow, rather than the full range of brain activity tracked by the Aussie-made headset.
Personally, I find that the Emotiv is actually incredibly comfortable compared to the Neurosky headsets, which don’t seem to sit on your head perfectly when you use them, interfering with the neural link.
The Emotiv will hit Australian shelves soon, likely around the end of 2014 with a retail price of around $400. Those are both rough estimates from the company so far which might change over time, but it’s nice to think that an awesome piece of future-tech will within reach of ordinary consumers.
Just think of the possibilities for immersive gaming alone: an Emotiv headset connected to a game console controlling your character, while you sit in your comfy chair watching on with the Oculus Rift. Even if that were the only application for the Emotiv, it would be a home-grown game changer, but it also has to power to save lives, help the disabled and accomplish what we only thought possible in sci-fi.
One to think on.
Catch Gizmodo Australia editor Luke Hopewell every week on SBS2’s The Feed with its new segment, Proving Ground, talking tech with Claire Porter and host Marc Fennell. Weeknights, 7:30pm, SBS2.