The OCZ NIA is surely a highly exciting device. It is indeed a new type of computer input devices and it really works. I don’t regret any second of my time I spent to test the NIA.
Although the NIA cannot read your thoughts, being limited to reading the neural impulses of your facial muscles, you do get the incredible feeling of controlling the computer with the power of your mind in simple games after a period of training. Your brain gets used to the NIA and you catch yourself realizing that you are controlling not the movements of your eyebrows but the position of the ping-pong racket on the screen.
Unfortunately, it proves to be more difficult to achieve high control precision in more complex games when all the NIA-accessible types of neural signals are at work and there are multiple events defined. Right now the NIA is not good enough at telling apart different types of neural impulses, and you have to adjust the sensors’ sensitivity meticulously or resort to such tricks as deliberate delays.
The NIA’s operation depends not only on your training but also on your skin and facial features. The NIA’s sensors do not work well on dry skin, requiring moisturizing cream. People with protruding superciliary arches have to forget about the horizontal joysticks because it is going to be hard for them to position the headset in such a way that it registered the eye movements and ensured a proper contact of the middle sensor with the skin.
Thus, the OCZ NIA is the most exciting device to experiment with, but its practical value in games is questionable. Its usefulness depends on the specific person much more than with any other type of input device. Of course, the NIA will come in handy for people with disabilities who find it difficult to use an ordinary mouse or keyboard, but I’m afraid that’s the only serious application of this device as yet.
There are quite many people writing positive reports about the NIA at forums. But there is no guarantee that it will suit you personally just as well. And the NIA is rather too expensive - about $130-$150 - to be bought just as a hi-tech toy.
Here is my wish-list for the developers. I would want the next version of the NIA to have a different design of the headset so that the sensors always had good contact with the skin. The NIA should also get better protection against EMI. And its software should improve its recognition of various types of neural signals.
I guess I should also mention two competing solutions that use a similar principle. One is the Emotiv EPOC device from the Australian Emotiv Systems. It is indeed like those devices you see in sci-fi movies as it has as many as 16 sensors placed all around the user’s head. And the other is the single-sensor NeuroSky that can register the general state of the brain: concentration, relaxation, irritation. The EPOC is expected to come out in 2009 as a standalone device whereas the NeuroSky is going to be supplied to the developers of toys, game consoles and other products for integration into them.
- New type of input device
- Hands-free control over the computer
- Confident control of simple actions after brief training
- Training is necessary
- High sensitivity to EMI, the computer must be grounded
- High sensitivity to the type of your skin; people with dry skin have to moisturize the forehead
- The contact with the middle sensor depends on the particular person’s face features
- Poor recognition of different types of neural signals; it is hard to have good control when using multiple types of signals simultaneously
- You cannot adjust the headset during play