OCZ Neural Impulse Actuator Teardown

m8ta fun did an extensive teardown of OCZ’s Neural Impulse Actuator (NIA). OCZ’s computer/mind interface is actually a fairly straight forward design. An analog front-end cleans and amplifies the ‘neural’ signal with a few op-amps before feeding it to a 24 bit analog to digital converter (ADC). A USB enabled PIC microcontroller reads the 24bit parallel ADC output through a common 7400 series parallel to serial adapter IC. The device has an ICSP programing header (top right), though it’s not yet clear if the PIC can be read or written.

[Thanks, joeyo]

16 thoughts on “OCZ Neural Impulse Actuator Teardown

  1. Any information on homebrew “brain wave” sensors? It would be interesting to check out the different signals you can get just from the surface of the head and perhaps mimic the intended functionality of the commercial device.

    I feel a project coming on.

  2. anyone figure out if this thing actually works, and if so how well? I was looking at buying one of these things. it probably cold be hacked to run one of those usb missile launchers too, that would be a cool project.

  3. hah son of a bitch, I KNEW someone would do this sooner or later. Luckily I posted mine a few days ago (includes a basic schematic):


    He did get some more information than me in certain areas, but he’s also made a few minor mistakes.

    As for the PIC, it can be read (the header is standard pinout), but with a programmer only the bootloader section is visible. It of course can be erased/programmed, but then you lose the original firmware (which I am working on getting). I’ll post more info when I get home.

  4. Coderer: They are more like conductive electrodes than “brain wave sensors” (even though everyone seems to call them that). They allow the controller box to read the biopotentials across the forehead.

    The cool thing about them is that they are “dry”, ie do not require conductive gel (like the original brainfingers device). This is one thing I’m not too sure about, I know they are carbon, but are most likely not nanotube based.

    If you wanted to do something similar, you can either buy disposable or reusable ECG electrodes + gel. The first ones should be easy to acquire if you know anyone who works at a hospital.

    Also, check this particular patent: http://www.google.com/patents?id=SDgpAAAAEBAJ. The Citations and Referenced By links should keep you busy for hours.

  5. I can’t wait to see what kinds of hacks people come out with for the Neurosky headset. I’s only $20-50 so it should probably have a lot more then OCZ.

    I might even get the Emotiv headset if it’s reviewed well, and comes out before Neurosky’s

  6. I have been entertaining the idea of coupling EEG with binaural audio generation for ‘guided’ meditation for some time now.

    20-50$? I am so on that toy. Not to mention the other practical applications of a mature technology, I wonder what the limits would be (600wpm typing?)… Would be nice to one day be able to take conceptual models, systems and visualizations straight from the brain onto a computer, so nice.

  7. thanks for the link sidusnare! it seems someone beat me to it.

    without delving into the esoteric (and brevity) I would really like to see a revolution occur in how we understand the link between mind and body. I understand that medical professionals have been stifled on the subject when dealing with phenomena far outside the accepted respective paradigms. individuals however could build methods and perhaps repeatable observations without fear of being stonewalled and ostracized.

    IMO: “Miracles happen not in opposition to nature, but in opposition to what we know of it.”

  8. You want first impressions? I’ve been using it for about an hour and a half now. I am so jazzed! Once you’re set up, it lets you parctice with a game of Pong. For the first 5 minutes I was just staring at a dead paddle, watching the ball pass by. I found that by squinting I could make the paddle jerk. Slowly it started getting easier and after about an hour I won my first (easy level) game of Pong! I’m way too excited about it when you consider the actual accomplishment involved, but there is something about seeing the computer respond to what you’re thinking that is so exciting! The motion is still very jerky, but I’m not squinting anymore to make it work. It just responds.

    All in all, the sensors are pretty comfortable. I was expecting the problems with interference that others have mentioned, but I had no problems with it. Which is good. Their suggestion is to keep the box away from wall warts (yeah, right; my place is infested with ’em).

    I’ve got the “Brainfingers” screen going and am watching Alpha and Beta ranges going up and down, seemingly at random (who would have thought there would be so much going on in my head).

    I can see where this is going to take time to become profecient with but seriously, this is one of the coolest toys I’ve ever played with!

  9. memory and encoding related multifaceted electroencephalographic response = MERMER
    brain finger printing

    These are all interesting aplications of this hardware and other open hardware like the modular eeg or the PCEEG made from the arduino and boarduino with a optical and dc isolation.

  10. So I partially understood some of this.. first off, can this be used as an eeg for purposes such as guiding one to sustaining alpha/delta etc states.. even if not there seems to be lots of reffs to check out in the thread. Thanks for them.

    For years i’ve dreamt about augmented reality, wearable computing and all that goes along with it.. wondering specifically would be a good interface to replace the kybd/mouse.. this looks like a super promising step.. Another piece is here http://www.vuzix.com/iwear/products_wrap920av.html I am in no way affil’d with them but i think these glasses will help push it all over the edge… Indulge me one sec while i share my dream…

    Wake up, grab mobile computing device, clip to belt (i’ll skip some steps like getting dressed etc).. toss above specs(vusix) on head.. with something like the above neuro gizmo worked into the glasses pref. Maybe have a cam or dual cams worked into the frames of the glasses in case you want to go opaque while walking down the st. and can then have a vid window on your desktop of the street and maybe some sort of directional plot via GPS or bluetooth as well as anti collision something… Standing at the bus stop shades opaqued, watching the traffic in a small window, watching the bus’ GPS blip in another window, maybe reading a couple books, scanning the approaching bus for ‘people of interest’ via bluetooth/GPS/Social network integration.. maybe looking up some info on what freq the bus radio works on just for fun..

    “I’ve got the “Brainfingers” screen going and am watching Alpha and Beta ranges going up and down, seemingly at random (who would have thought there would be so much going on in my head).”

    That sounds like something interesting..

    If anyone has anything like i described so poorly above in the works.. i’d love to hear.. compusure (at) hotmail (dot) com.


  11. So I just got my OCZ NIA and played with it for about 45 mins and am pretty excited. I will likely try and pick up some of the others that are being released as well.. I think that the OCZ NIA is a bit too geared to muscle movements and a bit less to the actual EEG type readings. I have a lot of computers around and power and etc that I will try and isolate from the next session. It is quite fascinating though.. What if we could train these devices for emotion as well? I can see that there are going to be huge use for these, once perfected for things such as dealith with ADHD, anger issues, product marketing research, understanding and recognizing emotions in others..etc.. I will carry on about this on my blog and am attempting to get distribution rights on some of the other devices to sell online. I registered a bunch of augmenting-reality/augmenting reality domains that i will try and get up and running soon as well. For now I will post here and on my own automatedhome.ca

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