LAS VEGAS - Prepare to get your mind blown, literally. Available this spring for $299, the Emotiv Insight headset reads your brainwaves to help you train your noggin. I had a chance to use the Emotiv Insight here at CES 2015 to harness the force and control a car, and was impressed by its mind-reading capabilities.
With a triangular cut-out shape, the white plastic Emotiv headband looks a bit like wearing underwear on your head. It has two arms that go around your dome, a small black reference sensor that sits behind your ear and a prong that clings to the top of your head from the back.
On the device are EEG sensors that detect your neurological activity, which can be transferred to your smartphone via Bluetooth 4.0. During my demo, I had to hold the black sensor to my skin (it needs to be touching skin) since my hair was in the way, preventing the unit from sitting well on my head. Other than that, the headset was light and comfortable.
An Emotiv rep plugged a USB cable into the headset, which linked it to a laptop, and started running a calibration process for me. I had to relax for 10 seconds for the system to get a baseline reading (not easy to do in the commotion of CES), then concentrate and think about a car moving forward. As I focused my thoughts, the wheels on an onscreen car started turning.
Then came the fun part. Emotiv had set up a short race track with two cars on it, and I took on a fellow reporter to see whose brainwaves were better at moving the cars. After about a minute of very intense concentration, during which the cars stopped for periods of time, my green car sped up and beat my opponent's blue vehicle.
Outside of pure fun, Emotiv says there are plenty of ways the Insight headset can benefit those who wear it. Developers have come up with compatible apps that can help kids with ADHD learn how to focus better, and Emotiv's own apps, which will be available at launch, will offer mental exercises to challenge your brain and help you relax.
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Cherlynn is Deputy Editor, Reviews at Engadget and also leads the site's Google reporting. She graduated with a Master’s in Journalism from Columbia University before joining Tom's Guide and its sister site LaptopMag as a staff writer, where she covered wearables, cameras, laptops, computers and smartphones, among many other subjects.