OCZ Neural Impulse Acutator

So, have you guys seen this? http://www.ocztechnology.com/products/ocz_peripherals/nia-neural_impulse_actuator

OCZ got their brain-interface onto the retail market! At roughly $150 the price isn't too bad either. I'm going to buy this as soon as random unexpected stuff stops raping my bank account!

To quote Logan Decker of PC Gamer US after he tested the OCZ NIA:

"Astonishing" isn't the word for it. Astonishing is what you'd call a chicken that can play the violin. This is something else. This is heaven.

And considering the NIA software maps diffrent inputs to keyboard keypresses it would be a breeze to interface this to an Arduino. I am seriously considering asking my mom to dig out my old Lego Mindstorms and Technic sets from the basement and bring them to my place so I can build a robot arm, use the Arduino to control it and use the NIA to control the Arduino.

I've been waiting for this for several years and now it's just $150 away... My fingers are ITCHING to buy this!

Don't get too excited snake oil sales men haven't gone away.

A lot of the quotes on the site are purported translations from foreign language web sites. One of the reviewers said:-

Not only this, but while most products are pretty consistent between each user, the nia can almost be compared to voice recognition software in that its success varies between users.

This is probably a neat let out clause when it fails to deliverer.

http://www.overclock3d.net/reviews.php?/input_devices/ocz_neural_impulse_actuator_nia_-_the_log/4 seemed to imply it was facial muscle that was doing the trick rather than any thinking.

Thanks for the reply.

I read overclock3d's review twice yesterday, and just about every other review I could find. There are huge diffrences in how fast people pick up the use of this but every independent review I have read agrees on a couple of things:

  • it's amazing technology
  • it's not just the face muscle
  • it's technology in it's infancy (but OCZ is constantly working on bettering the software, and users are finding ways of fixing grounding issues)
  • it works diffrently on everyone, because of rather diffrent physiology and of course outside interference

The reason I can say it's not just the face muscle is that this part of the system just measures face tension. That is one variable. If set up as a joystick that can emulate 3 buttons (+ idle state) at max, and I have seen people with no reason to lie to further this product play fps-games only using hands to control the mouse. that means WASD-setup, shoot, crouch, jump, previous/next weapon. A lot more than could be reliably controlled by face+jaw (a total of 6 buttons).

Also, though it takes a lot of practice a few users have gained individual control of as much as 3 of the 6 Brainfingers, in addition to having good control of the face variable. If you are able to individually control 4 analoge values with a sensor that does nothing except measure general facual tension, I commend you but to the rest of us that is impossible. Besides, EEG is a proven technology and two other companies(NeuroSky and Emotiv) are set to release similar devices this year after showing working prototypes at game conferences for a few years.

How can you still think this is fluff? I'm not saying it's the Matrix, but it does what it says it does, namely letting you control a few variables with a new, innovative user interface device! :D

How can you still think this is fluff?

Well I spent several years lecturing at a University and one of my topics was "Medical Physics and Instrumentation" and I would have expected to see any breakthrough in the scientific literature first.

However, the warning bells are the same you see for any pseudo science, like magnetic bracelets or aroma therapy.

1) It doesn't work for everyone - so you can't do a proper double blind test. 2) You need to be some how special to get the best out of it, therefore if you can't make it work it is your fault. 3) Once you have convinced yourself there is an effect then you become an enthusiastic evangelist for it. This is because you have invested so much time, effort and your own personality into the venture. 4) You want it to be true so much that it colours your perception.

Remember the human mind has an infinite capacity for self delusion that's why so much effort is made to reduce the placebo effect in research. It is also why no one ever went bust underestimating the intelligence of the general public.

Google pseudo science or look at http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/pseudo.html

How can you still think this is fluff? I’m not saying it’s the Matrix, but it does what it says it does, namely letting you control a few variables with a new, innovative user interface device! :smiley:

Want an example of marketing fluff:
The headband uses carbon nanofiber-based sensors to provide the highest possible dynamic range for the recording of bioelectrical signals that are amplified and digitized and further de-convoluted into computer commands.

And it’s a bit insulting to think that customers will find that a justification for spending $150 is to "Use Space-Age Technology"

This technology reminds me of the early days of speech recognition products for PC input. At first it was amazing that it worked at all and there was a fascination that something seemingly out of science fiction could actually be connected up and used at home. But the novelty soon wore off after hours of training still resulted in very poor accuracy.

Twenty years later Speech Recognition technology has matured, and for a lot less then the cost of the OCZ device today I can for example buy a telephone that makes calls just by speaking the name of the person I want.

I have no doubt that products like the NIA will evolve so they don’t require a rubber headband strapped to the head and days of training to do anything useful. But I completly agree with a reviewers comment in the review link posted above: “I really feel that the technology is at stage 1 of its development.”

I do wonder what applications you have in mind that would make this particular device appealing for arduino users?

Anyway, its your $150, so ignore my cynicism, and if you get one please report back on your experience.

Have fun!

Hahaha, yeah I see your point Mike. ::)

I guess I am hoping for this to work so much I am willing to $250 (Norwegian retail price) just for the chance it works.

However I will remain hopeful. After all, EEG is a proven science used to measure patterns of activity in the brain. Also, experiments have been done and repeated where a patient subject to chronic pain is put in a brainscanner (fMRI, CAT.. I don't know) while beeing shown a visual representation (often in the form of a flame) of the level of activity in their brains pain center. The patient spends hours inside the machine trying to mentally calm down the flame.

After some time, the patient learned at least some degree of simply reducing the pain they felt at will.

To me, this alongside sensory substitution research proves the brains incredible plasticity. When you can measure things in the brain with fairly simple equipment (http://openeeg.sourceforge.net/doc/) and you can, with the proper feedback, learn to control aspects of the brain...

Why should this not, at least it theory, be very possible?

Edit: Mem, I have no very spesific Arduino-related applications in mind but I just thought I should give a heads-up. There are a lot of creative people here and given that this equipment works well enough to be at least fun to play with, some pretty cool stuff could no doubt be made! Emotiv's far more sophisticated headgear (14 sensors vs. OCZ's 3) claim to measure distinct facual expressions and also the wearers emotional state. How about a t-shirt with an embedded led-display showing the world your moods? Or perhaps an animated face changing expressions and "talking" to mimic you! ^^

Why should this not, at least it theory, be very possible?

Yes indeed it should. But as you point out the recent advances in mapping brain activity have relied on magnetic resonance imaging. We have had nearly a century of measuring brain activity with surface mounted electrodes with little concrete advance in our understanding of what we see. I did experiment in the in the late 60s with electrodes on my body hooked up to voltage controlled oscillators and sound synthesisers and you could affect what was being produced but that was it. The brain is indeed remarkable in being able to analyse sensory data even from odd sensors. Like the TV camera that converts images into vibrating pressure pictures strapped to your back. What it is not so good at is going the other way, controlling things by indirect activity. Much prosthetic limb research is being done in this field but breakthroughs do not happen often and the control achieved is small even allowing for the medical plumbing that can be done on the input sensors. Therefore a head mounting device must be viewed with caution.

Anyway it would probably be great to use at parties and might make a good chat up line. ::)

Anyway it would probably be great to use at parties and might make a good chat up line. ::)

Mike, I don't know what kind of parties you go to, but I would hesitate to use a line like: “ Hi, do you mind if I wrap this rubber strap around your head, after a few weeks practice you can control my arduino?” :D

Again, I kind of see your point. But if the brain can remap itself to understand that a certain patterned output corresponds with a pattern in an input to such a degree that one can achieve spacial awareness through the setup you described (TVSS), why should brain control not work?

I argue that…
A.: Sensory substitution/agumentation shows that the brain has little trouble figuring out the relations between it’s “outputs” and “inputs”. It’s called sensomotory relations, isn’t it? :-?. Wether the output is the body and feedback is a fake/new sense, or the output is a fake/new one and the input is a traditional sense, I can’t really see much difference as far as the brain is concerned.

B.: Brain activity produces measurable EM-fields around the head. To measure such a field, one needs a fitting pickup and amplifier setup. Also, brain activity can be willfully changed and even “figured out” to such a degree that with traditional 50++ electrode hospital setups one can see which parts of the body the person hooked up is moving, even to a certain degree which parts he visualizes moving.

C.: The main problem up until now has been the feedback loop. As you seem to know, using MRI for the “output” (from the brain) part of the loop and visual images for the “input” has been shown to work many times. Assuming that OCZ has been able to make sensors capable of reading the EM-fields around a users head, the equipment should be able to read at least some general information about what the brain is doing (alfa/beta waves, activication of the motor cortexes, etc).

I could of course argue against the OCZ NIA, but I know it is possible and I hope OCZ hasn’t botched up the job too badly so this is the stance I take until someone convinces I am wrong. :wink:

OK fine. Any such breakthrough I would expect to see control over prosthetic limbs appear first, then games controllers.

Incidentally from what you said am I to assume you are in Norway. If so it's a bit of a coincidence that I am here at work in the UK watching Norwegian TV. I am designing something to do with digital TV.

As to mem:-

but I would hesitate to use a line like: “ ........

It's all in the presentation, yes your line was rubbish. But how about "I sense a strong physic force from you, it must mean that we are strongly tuned into each others life energy. I have been researching into this and I have a prototype machine for measuring your life energy. It will tell if we are the perfect match."

All fair in love and war. :-*

I had a friend who was researching imaging techniques (used in mammography) and he told people at parties he was researching into breast cancer, he said it was amassing the number of girls who asked if he would mind feeling there breasts just to check them.

"I sense a strong physic force from you, it must mean that we are strongly tuned into each others life energy. I have been researching into this and I have a prototype machine for measuring your life energy. It will tell if we are the perfect match."

There is a place you may have come across on the Tottenham Court Rd that uses a line very close to that one. But lets not let this thread degenerate into a discussion on E-meters ;)

How could you see I am in Norway? Is my english that sh*tty? :’(

OK fine. Any such breakthrough I would expect to see control over prosthetic limbs appear first, then games controllers.

You obviously know a lot about science but apparently you don’t know much about marketing. Show me one piece of technology with applications in both entertainment and medicine that hasn’t been wastly improved by the demands of the competitive entertainment market. Fact is, the huge, complicated EEG-equipment in hospitals do their job well whatever their job is (or they wouldn’t still be used). Why would a company pour millions into bettering hospital equipment that is already wide-spread and works well enough, if they can simplify and commercialize the same technology and make tenfold the cost research?

Oh, and by the way… Emotiv has made equipment to allow para/quadriplegics control of their electric wheelchairs using the EmotivEPOC headset. :wink: Still the fact remains that for every needing, deserving wheelchair or prosthetic user, there are ten thousand, a hundred thousand gamers, techies and geeks like me who would gladly pay out of our arses for something as cool as this!

On the point of prosthetic devices… I’ve read that most prosthetic users complain mainly about having no feedback from their prosthetic limbs. Considering a lower arm/hand (myoelectric “claw”) prostheses will run you about $5000 over here, and considering the cost of adding a few flex and force sensors along with vibrotactile feedback would be about $10 at most, can you really say that you expect any new technology to first be applied to the handicapped? :-/

It’s the corporate way of thinking… I know this all too well beeing a type 1 diabetic. Researchers at universities and private companies say diabetes could and should have been cured 3 decades ago. So why does diabetes still kill more people every year than AIDS or cancer? Because the big medical companies get a big part of their income from the millions depending on syringes, insulin, measuring devices and other paraphrenelia. If they put a significant amount of resources into curing diabetes, cancer, AIDS, and many other diseases, they would in effect ruin themselfs. Horrible as it might sound, it is all too true.

It’s the same thing with technology. Imagine the board of multi-billion dollar company discussing whether to spend tons of money on making better wheelchairs for a select few users or making a headset that will have millions of gamers and computer geeks changing their underwear just from reading about it… Which way do you think they will go? :stuck_out_tongue:

Here is a video of a guy wearing a thin headband to cut out any direct contant between the sensors and his skin. As you can see the glance and muscle bars are not moving at all while the 6 Alpha and Beta bars happily jump up and down. It still doesn’t prove that it measures brain activity or that brain activity is controllable but hospitals using EEG machines have proved the latter, and the relative simplicity of picking up and amplifying EM-fields shows it could be what it is measuring.

apparently you don't know much about marketing

Very true, I saw the Beatles in the 60s make there first ever TV appearance and thought nice sound pity they won't get anywhere.

Point taken, although I reserve the right to an "I told you so" as you indeed can reserve the right to send me a raspberry.

How could you see I am in Norway?

This is because you wrote earlier:-

I am willing to $250 (Norwegian retail price)

I edited my previous post to add a video of a guy using the NIA without skin contant with the sensors (thus cutting off the signal to glance and face bars). Check it out! ^_^

On a different note, have you seen http://openeeg.sourceforge.net/doc/? More specifically the active electrode part. Do you think these electrodes, if built with the proper care, could indeed pick up "brainwaves"? It seems the members of that site have been able to show graphs with frequencies within the range of what we know should be measured in the brain..

If these babies do indeed work, they could from what I gather be sampled with the Arduino as regular 5V analog sensors. Send the samples to your computer, do some fancy stuff like draw real-time graphs.. What do you think? Doable? And if so, would one be able to see spikes or changes in frequencies if one was surprised, angered, etc.?

Ok, so I've been reading up a bit and as far as I can see the brain does indeed produce alpha, beta, gamma and some other frequencies simultanesouly.

With an active electrode: http://openeeg.sourceforge.net/doc/hw/ae.html

..and the Arduino to read it and forward the raw data to the computer, it seems it should be possible to use Fourier transforms to "extract" different frequencies from the mashed-together raw datasignal from the electrode.

For fairly understandable info on Fourier transforms: http://www.relisoft.com/science/Physics/fourier.html

This setup seems like it should be very similar to what the OCZ NIA uses. One EEG-sensor, a board that reads and transmits to computer via usb, and software on the computer to analyze the signal to extract frequency-ranges corresponding to alpha and beta and their amplitudes.

Brainwaves: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain_waves#Normal_activity

I checked out the electrode stuff and it looks sensible. At the University we had a student lab that involved electrodes and operational amplifiers to make a heart monitor. Most of the time they just got noise out. I suspect that will be the result of your FFT but give it a try and report back if you get anywhere.
Best of luck.