I was very excited to test the EPOC headset and to see what it is capable of. Firstly, I took it out of the box and read through the manual. Before I could start the headset had to be charged and sensors prepared by hydrating them in a special saline solution.
I charged the headset with a special usb cable provided. Here is the headset on charge (without sensors with red light on). When battery is full the green light will indicate so.
The sensors came packed in a plastic case which is suitable for soaking. In total there are 16 felt tip sensors with golden plates. They must be soaked wet and then mounted in the headset arms. It is important that they are not dry or it will result in insufficient conductivity and therefore weak brainwave detection. They are soaked in standard multipurpose contact lens solution which can be purchased in any local drugstore in case i will run out of it.
After preparing the headset I have to fit it correctly on someone’s head. There are few tips on how to place it on and get a good contact with sensors. It says on the manual that “Good contact of reference sensors is the key for a good signal.”
In order to establish the connection between the headset and the computer I used a supplied USB Transceiver Dongle and placed it into one of the USB slots. Then I turned on the headset and checked the signal strength as well as sensor connectivity with the help of provided software tool called EPOC Control Panel which came with the purchase.
In this image I can see that all sensors apart from one are green. Green means good connection and there is a slight issue with one sensor on the forehead. There might be an issue with the wetness of the sensor or the position. The manual says that my “objective is to achieve as many green lights as possible by adjusting the position of the various arms on the headset. Note that the EPOC will still function with some sensor locations showing yellow or orange however the detections will be less reliable in this state. Often the contact quality will gradually improve after a few minutes use.”
I noticed that EPOC must be in field of USB dongle. The PC tower was underneath the table and at the start it was hard to get the connection, but when we placed the EPOC closer to the dongle, the connection established straight away. In order to maintain this connection it was important nothing blocked the signal sending, things like a table or a chair.
To test this head device i used two software tools:
1. EPOC Control Panel
2. Mind Your OSC
Here is a small video preview of Mind Your OSC software responding to the headset in use:[vimeo.vimeo.com/38561788]
This software has a very good response in Affective mode and all subcategories such as: Engaged/Bored, Excitement, Excitement Long Term, Meditation, and Frustration are working fine. The value amplitude is ranging from 0 to 1. Other modes such as Cognitive and Expressive seems to fail picking up any numeric changes. There are spurts of values coming up inconsistently and therefore not reliable for my project.
What is good about this particular software is that all values can be made accessible through the port which is a main bridging element in case of using additional software to interpret these values. I can select the port number but for some odd reason i can’t change the IP address. That means that i HAVE to run this software on same computer to parse the values through the chosen port. I think this is very disappointing due to the fact that this software is for Windows only and should be used on same machine. From previous experience I have worked on several computers and linked them in order to communicate for a single task. In this instance i will need to install Windows onto my Mac and run all programs in it. It is not an issue for me but a unnecessary hassle and limitation provided by software development kit only compatible with Windows operating system and restricted development of Mind Your OSC. I am aware that for additional cost one can make this EPOC headset more suitable for research grounds and i am only confined by my choice of cheaper version. So i will need to go extra mile in order to make maximum use of it!
I think the reason why all values are not reading properly on Mind Your OSC is due to instability of transferring values via bluetooth set or poor programming performance. I had another chance to test Expressive values using a build in 3D face model within EPOC Control Panel and it seemed to work very good. That let’s me conclude on rather poor Mind Your OSC program performance.
Here is a video showing how actual facial expressions are being translated onto a 3D model. Please mind that the footage for both 3D model and actual person are filmed separately and are not in synch. But it gives a rough idea that software actually picks up different face expressions such as eye blinking, eyebrow frowns and mouth smiling:[vimeo.vimeo.com/38408362]
I also tried a little app inside EPOC Control Panel which allows me to program different facial expressions to certain key strokes. These key strokes are global functions which can be picked up by any text related software and to show it i used a simple Text Editor:[vimeo.vimeo.com/38561789]
This opportunity to use different programmable assets allows me to expand on device’s usability. I am intended to use Mind Your OSC as a main contributor for value parsing and detecting mood changes while EPOC Control Panel will allow me to map different facial expressions and assign some commands using software which will detect keystroke input. Both programs are supplementing each other and by using them simultaneously i will get more feedback coming from headset into my chosen software.