Sunday, March 10, 2013

Reading My Mind Using The Emotiv EPOC

Once I saw the TED talk on the Emotiv EPOC / EEG, I knew that I had to get my hands on that mind-reading gadget.

Emotiv offers two versions of the headset shown in the TED talk: the EEG (which allows users to access their raw EEG data) and the EPOC (it costs much less because which only allows you to run applications and doesn't give you access to the raw data).  Because I only had a causal interest in the topic, I bought the EPOC headset.

I tested the EPOC headset on myself as well as a few friends.  When my friends and I first saw the Cognitiv Suite, the response was similar to the crowd of the TED talk: people were impressed that the virtual box would move after training the first action. However, the excitement faded after using the Cognitiv Suite for a few minutes and trying to control multiple actions because it isn't highly accurate at detecting a specific thought. For example, if you train "push" and "left", you will probably see the box move towards you more than it moves left (or vice versa), and the action probably won't really be in sync with your thoughts.

In short, I didn't find the EPOC headset to be as cool as I was hoping it would be because it wasn't a very effective tool for providing mind control.  Nevertheless, I do think it is interesting to be able to visualize my brain activity (see the links to additional posts below).

Part #1: Review of EPOC Apps

Part #2: Tracking My Thoughts Using the Affectiv Suite

To be fair, my friends and I are only small pool of test subjects.  For example, the Emotiv website lists papers published using data from the EEG and EPOC headsets, and you can find various videos on YouTube for interesting applications (for example, click here or here).  Likewise, I found this presentation that showcases some examples of EPOC headset data with a (simple) technical explanation about what is going on.  However, my own personal experience was more similar to this EPOC review or this article which points out that researchers could use the device to make non-random predictions about user's PIN numbers but the predictions were not super accurate.

Finally, it may be worth noting that there are other devices with similar functionality (for example, see this list from Wikipedia), which is something that I didn't initially realize.  The Emotiv headset may really be the best option, but I would at least recommend researching some other options if you were interested in trying out a "mind reading" device.


  1. Interesting post. A few things:

    1) There is only one headset, the Emotiv EPOC, not two as you term them: EEG & EPOC. The difference between units is a change in the SDK software and the EPOC firmware to allow users with the more expensive SDK's access to the raw EEG data stream. So there is a difference in firmware between headsets, but it is still the EPOC.

    2) On your page about the Affectiv Suite you have a typo for one of the Affectiv signals. You call it "mediation". It's "meditation".

    3) You didn't mention how long you used the Affectiv suite. The Affectiv suite has a warm-up time of about 40 minutes to fully calibrate and therefore to achieve maximum accuracy. Note, you need to save your profile at that point if you want to retain the calibration values.

    -- Robert.

  2. Hi Robert,

    Thanks for your comments.

    Yes, I agree with your description regarding the EEG vs. EPOC. I apologize if this was not made clear

    Thank you for pointing out the typo.

    The time varied for each time that I used the EPOC headset, but I would say the maximum was typically around 30-40 minutes. After that time it became uncomfortable for me to wear the headset (and pretty much all of my friends had a weaker tolerance than me). Saving the profile at the end of 30 minutes sounds like a good idea.

  3. I wish i could try it but its a bit pricey considering they use about 40$ in materials to build it and priced it at 250$ or 750$ if you want any compatibility with any 3rd party software.

    1. If it was priced at 150$ and was compatible with 3rd party software then i might consider buying 1.
      But forking over 750$ for sheer programming No Way.
      I don't fancy forking over almost 19$ on the 1$


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