OCZ prepares Neural Impulse Actuator for shipping next week Page: 1
OCZ's prepares NIA for shipping next week
Back in January we brought you news of a new device showcased by OCZ over at the Computer Electronics Show. Codenamed the Neural Impulse Actuator (or nia for short), OCZ captivated audiences by seemingly being able to use brain power to control the motion of a character in the the popular FPS Unreal Tournament. 
Neural Impulse ActuatorWhile details of how it worked at the time were quite sketchy with many people taking guesses at whether it was actually controlled by brainwaves or facial expressions/muscle movements, today (after seeing the device in action on a one-on-one basis) we've got some further information on the unit along with some pictures of what you can expect from the retail version once it starts shipping.
How does it work?
Obviously the biggest question that has been on everyone's minds (excuse the pun) is how does it work? While it has to be said that a lot of the information fed to us by Dr. Michael Schuette (Neurobioligist & OCZ VP of Technology) went well over our heads (here we go again - Ed), we managed to extract from the conversation that the nia works by reading bioptentials. These include activities of the brain, the autonomous nervous system and muscles - all of which are captured using embrace sensors located on the nia's headband, amplified and sent to the PC via USB2.0.
 OCZ Neural Impulse Actuator
The biopotentials are broken into frequency specific components that allow a reasonably fine granularity of control for the novice user, after a short period of adaptation, the controls become essentially a streaming of body signals into the computer that don't really require any further "thinking" but become sort of second nature.
Until recently this analysis required a great deal of processing power, meaning that in a uni-processor environment the game running on a users PC would often be competing for CPU resources against the nia application. However, thanks to the popularity of multi-core processors, the software is now able to offload a lot of the "decoding" to other cores in the processor improving the performance of the multi-threaded application.
OCZ NIA HeadbandAny better than a mouse/keyboard?
While the nia is clearly a breakthrough in technology, it's certainly not going to make anybody a professional gamer over night. In much the same way as it takes several years to learn how to touch-type without looking at the keyboard, the nia will similarly require significant 'brain training' before a user can competently navigate around a map in a game.
However, the nia does have a big advantage over the traditional mouse with OCZ claiming that reaction times can be cut by anything up to 60%. This reduction is mainly thanks to the nia cutting out a large portion of the time that the body takes to relay information from the eye down through the body into muscles in our fingers. While many professional gamers spend many hours every day for several years training these reflexes, any person using the nia should be able to harness the full potential of their reflexes within a matter of hours.
So when is it out?
Sources at OCZ have told us that the nia will be going into production as soon as next week. This falls in line with the start CeBIT, where the device will be showcased on OCZ's booth (Hall 21 B 29). People wanting to get a slice of the action as soon as it arrives with retailers can expect to pay around $300USD (~£150) - a bargain considering the R&D that has gone into the device. Also included in the package will be detailed instructions and presentations on how to make the most of the nia. So rest assured you won't be left scratching your head!
We've seen the nia in action and it's very surreal, but at the same time it works. Could this device revolutionise the way we think about "input devices"? Do you think you'll be buying one? Why not air your views in our forum.