There are three sensors on the front part of the headset. These are hard plastic frames that press tight against the skin of your forehead. The headset doesn’t incorporate any electronics – it is all accommodated in the interface unit.
The finish quality of the plastic isn’t high. The photograph shows ragged edges although the interior surface of the sensors is smooth. The raggedness doesn’t tell on the user’s convenience, though. It only affects the appearance of the device.
The electronic components – amplifiers receiving the signal from the sensors, an analog-to-digital converter and a USB interface – are all accommodated in a small and neat box, just over 10 centimeters long, which is made from anodized aluminum. This box doesn’t need additional power. The NIA is powered by the USB port it is connected to.
The headset is connected to the electronics box with a 3-pin connector. The cable is 1.4 meters long, thin and flexible.
On the bottom panel of the case there are rubber feet, vent holes and a label that covers the screws you need to unfasten to take the device apart. When the NIA is turned on, you can see a red LED shining through the slits. I don’t understand why the manufacturer didn’t make this LED more conspicuous and external.
The internal design of the NIA is neither too sophisticated nor uncommon. In the left part of the PCB there is a Microchip PIC microcontroller. The center of the PCB is occupied by an Analog Devices ADUM1300 isolator and a Fairchild HCPL-2631 optocoupler. A BurrBrown PCM1803A analog-to-digital converter, a Texas Instruments OPA4340 operation amplifier and a few smaller chips reside in the right part of the PCB.
Take note that the electrical circuit of the headset is separate from the computer’s power supply, obviously for safety reasons. The opamp and the ADC are powered by a dedicated switching power supply (its choke can be seen in the center of the PCB in the bottom part of the photo). The digitized data is transferred through the ADUM1300 isolator which is rated for a voltage up to 2.5kV. Thus, OCZ’s engineers have done everything necessary for the headset to be free from dangerous voltages. The headset is electrically isolated from the USB port as well as from the computer at large.
Interestingly, the back part of the PCB has a caption that reads “Powered by Brainfingers technology.” This sheds some light on the origin of the NIA. Brainfingers is the trademark of Brain Actuated Technologies, a developer of “brain interfaces” for people with various types of mental disorders. OCZ must have got interested in the opportunity to commercialize this technology and now offers a mass-market device based on it.