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After you have specified the control signals, you can set the joysticks up. Depending on the signal level, the respective slider can move from top to bottom position of the rule you can set up to four marks or triggers on. Each trigger corresponds to one, two or three commands (events).

The screenshot above shows two triggers defined for the joystick. There is no action when the signal level is zero – the slider is below the Z2 mark. At medium signal level the slider gets above the Z2 mark for which one command is assigned – the pressing and holding of the W button which corresponds to forward movement in the standard gaming WASD layout. I have previously selected mimic muscles as the signal source for this joystick, so now I will be able to move my hero forward in games by slightly raising my eyebrows.

The other trigger, Z4, corresponds to the maximum of signal. It is assigned the S button, i.e. backward movement, and the delay+hold mode. This tricky combination is necessary when a brief strong signal is assigned to a jump in another control. If the Z4 event had no delay, I would step backward together with making a jump in games. With the delay enabled, a brief rise of the eyebrows will do a jump but the backward movement won’t be enabled.

This trick has one obvious drawback – backward movement will always be performed by your game character with a delay.

Although called a joystick, this control element has only three states (idle, Z2 and Z4). The precise position of the slider between these marks is unimportant. Its crossing a specific mark is what matters.

You can set three parameters for each joystick which define its reaction to signals from the NIA’s sensors.

The horizontal joysticks registering your eye movements are somewhat different. Their idle point is in the middle. For the vertical joystick every nonzero signal from the NIA’s sensors means upward movement, but the horizontal joystick distinguishes the direction, right or left.

You can set two triggers for each direction, corresponding to weak and strong signals. In my example, only weak signals are used. I assigned them to the presses of the A and D buttons, i.e. to the character’s moving left and right. Like with other control elements, you can assign up to three buttons to each trigger. For example, you can enable the R2 and L2 triggers that correspond to maximum signal and make them move your character right and left together with a jump. Then, you will be able to move your character into the necessary direction by simply looking into the left or right corner of the screen. But if you move your eyes quickly, you’ll do the same thing with a jump.

Thus, the current version of the NIA software does not allow to control an onscreen pointer or emulate a joystick sensitive to the stick tilt. In fact, every available control element is discrete. You can just assign up to four different events (keystrokes or key combinations), depending on the signal level, for each of the so-called joysticks. You can also specify if it is a single stroke or the button must be held pressed. And you can also enable a delay before the reaction when necessary. Thus, the NIA can’t replace a mouse in games but can be used instead of a few buttons.

Having set the joysticks up, you can bind your profile to a game.

Every profile is saved on your hard disk. You have to select the necessary one before launching the game.

When you select a profile, the NIA prompts you to check it out. The screenshot above shows the emulation of a mouse click. The yellow line corresponds to the signal from the sensor that registers the blinking of your eyelids. The horizontal dashed line corresponds to the threshold level after which the event occurs. You can check out and adjust all the joysticks set up in this profile in the same way.

The last screen of the NIA program reminds you the shortcuts: Ctrl+F12 to enable NIA-based control in the game and Ctrl+F11 to enable sounds for the joysticks’ triggers. Now you can press the Launch button and start the game and press Ctrl+F12.

Well, the theory is okay, but the practice was a disappointment.

As I wrote above, the shape of my head doesn’t provide a proper contact with the middle sensor, so I had to move the headset higher up my forehead. It was thus farther from the eyes and could not register their movements. The signal proved to be too weak to move the horizontal joystick. And when I increased amplification, the joystick would jump chaotically left and right reacting to electromagnetic interference.

My wife was more successful. The NIA registered her eye movements easily and identified the direction well enough. However, she had to slant her eyes too much to move the joystick’s slider, which was somewhat uncomfortable. This problem could be eliminated by adjusting the sensitivity, though.

Another problem was the spontaneous reaction of the trigger that was responsible for the left mouse button (this button corresponds to a shot in most of shooters). This trigger was supposed to work at a blink of the eyelids. In fact, you have to actually shut your eyes to make the trigger work (otherwise the natural blinking would have been registered as well). And the trigger would often react not to the blinking of the eyes but to sudden movements of the mimic muscles. I didn’t manage to set the sensitivity thresholds in such a way as to avoid accidental shots.

The overall result is not encouraging. I could not get as much in-game control with the NIA as with an ordinary keyboard and mouse. The NIA is not very good at differentiating various signals and may confuse a shot with a jump and a jump with a step back. You also have to restrain your emotions as frowning may provoke a real squall of commands! The headset also feels uncomfortable on the head after a while, but you cannot adjust it as this will result in half a dozen false commands or even in total loss of control.

 
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