Vietnamese-backed Emotiv crowdfunds over $500,000 for its brain headset



With still more than 30 days to go, Emotiv has crowdfunded just over $574,000 for its new project on Kickstarter. The Vietnamese-backed startup (though based in the US) was funded and founded by a prominent figure in the Vietnamese startup community, Nam Do along with Tan Le, who is currently CEO.

The Emotiv Insight is an iteration of the EPOC headset that Vietnamese-Australian co-founder and CEO Tan Le introduced in a TED talk in 2010. Since that presentation, amidst a lot of internet buzz and fanfare, Emotiv has been quietly iterating and working with third-party developers on applications for the EPOC. The Emotiv EPOC was designed to allow users to literally think commands to their computers. In this short two-minute video, you can see a little four-year-old boy move a virtual box on a computer with his mind:

Of course, the problem with the EPOC was not only that it was a first version but also that it – as you can see in the video is rather clunky. The Insight is now a much sleeker device, and is also now capable of gathering data on the user, not just enacting commands. On top of all that, users don’t have to use saline solution (as if you’re some kind of lab rat) and now the revamped device just goes on your head, ready to go.

For about $200, Kickstarter backers could get an Emotiv Insight, but that option has run out already; the next cheapest option is to get the device at $229. Most of the devices will ship by March 2014, so it’s still a while to wait. But for folks wanting to pay the extra $700 or more, they can get it shipped by January 2014. At the rate that the Kickstarter program has been going, it’s foreseeable that Emotiv will hit $1 million at the end of its crowdfunding campaign.

UPDATE: If the Emotiv Insight does hit the $1 million milestone, the company is going to add an extra gyroscope and an extra accelerometer to the device, thus giving each one even more capability and versatility in terms of application.

Brainwave or braindead?

Despite the Insight’s awesome iterations and sleek new design, it’s unclear to me yet what is the key killer application for the Insight. The EPOC was especially helpful for disabled people who could use it to interact with computer interfaces, or to command something as simple as moving a wheelchair forwards and backwards. But for the the average consumer, it’s hard for me to see the real world applications. Of course, for a device that allows you to control computer environments with your thoughts, this might be great for gaming. The question is, is it fast enough to beat out a simple controller or keyboard? Time will tell.

That being said, as wearable tech like Google Glass, Jawbone Up, and others start to become more popular, will Emotiv Insight join the ranks of wearable devices that allow people to track their body (and brain) data? The Insight has a big advantage in that it can even sense your brain waves and changes in your heart rate.

Either way, we’ll know by next year after the device gets into the hands of developers and users who are keen to play with their brains and their computers at the same time.

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