Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Emotiv EPOC - Introduction

I am using the Emotiv EPOC neuroheadset with the Education Edition SDK. The headset and this SDK run at $2500 together. I recommend this version if you are conducting research that is a) non-commercial and (optionally) b) open to multiple collaborators within your department. And you will also need to be at some form of academic or education institute. Emotiv offers 6 different SDKs to choose from, including the FREE SDKLite. Read up and choose the one that is right for you or your organization.

Why the Emotiv EPOC?
I chose to use the EPOC for my research for a few different reasons. First, it has 14 electrodes and can also measure head rotation. The more you can measure, the more you can do with the signals (well hopefully). The EPOC can be trained to detect conscious thoughts, emotions, and facial expressions. The provided Control Panel is great for viewing sensor contacts, doing some basic training, and just getting acquainted with the headset. The first time you put on the headset and hook it up to the computer, you will feel awesome. Or at least I felt awesome.
The white outer box is essentially a layer of paper.
Electroencephalographic (EEG) signals are fluctuations of electrical potential along the scalp created by neurons in the brain. EEG signals can thus be measured outside the brain itself in a non-invasive way via wearable headsets.The EPOC is one such headset. A very brief comparison of current consumer headsets is available on Wikipedia. More information on BCIs and how EEG fits within the field can also be found on Wikipedia.

Contents unpacked.

Out of the box
The EPOC comes in a flimsy box that in no way made me feel comfortable with my choice. Upon opening, however, you will find that everything is securely packed. My box contained a headset, a small bottle of solution, a case containing the 16 sensors, a charger, and the Bluetooth connector. Additional sensor packs and headsets can be purchased from the Emotiv Store.

Obtaining the SDK
The software that is available through the Education Edition DOES NOT come in the box. It is available for download, linked to the purchaser's email address, from the Emotiv website. This can be a slight pain in the ass to obtain, but I can say from experience that the Customer Care personnel are both patient and timely in their responses. In my case it took 5 days of correspondence (and a lot of confusion) before I was given access to the Education Edition SDK. If you have a departmental purchasing officer, please do the following to avoid any issues:
  • Don't Panic.
  • Have the purchaser forward you all emails received from Emotiv about the purchase made. This includes order number (which is actually order ID) and confirmations.
  • When you register on the Emotiv site, use your departmental email address. They will check that the emails between purchaser and researcher match (i.e., department.school.edu). Again, the SDK is licensed to your department and not your entire university.
  • Do not take everything they say literally. For example, if they ask for the order number, it might not be the thing labeled 'order number' Or if they ask for your school's email ID, they really want your department's email ID that will match the purchaser.
The person who helped me was awesome, and I naively assume that everyone in Emotiv's employ is equally awesome.

First Things First!
Make sure that your headset turns on before you do anything. If it is not holding a slight charge, then simply plug it in and give it a few minutes. Red light is charging, green light is charged. If you get a blue light when you flip the switch (located on the bottom rear of the headband), then you are set. Once you know the headset turns on, read the digital manual and begin finding that perfectly frustrating level of solution needed for proper conductivity.


  1. Wonderful blog & good post.Its really helpful for me, awaiting for more new post. Keep Blogging!
    Electrical Testing and Tagging

  2. Hi! You get a solution with it. Does this mean you have to make those sensors wet with that solution?
    I'm asking this because there is a film on TED where the emotiv epoc is presented as a product that doesn't need fluids or anything like that.

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Immaan,

      You are correct, the EPOC uses wet contacts. Just a few drops on each sensor tip and it is ready to go! At the TED talk they may have prepped the headset before using it.

  3. Hey, I am an Indian Student and want to use EPOC headset. Are there any open source libraries that render the same functionality as the Emotiv SDKs? I can just buy the headset for 299$. Thanks a lot. I need some help as no professor in mu University works on these stuff.

    1. Shashank,

      I recommend that you check out the Emokit project. It is an open source project designed to read raw data from the EPOC. Check out the project on GitHub for more information: https://github.com/qdot/emokit

  4. Thanks Chris.

    I checked it out. I also came across https://github.com/antoche/openvibe at GitHub. My University is not funding me, so I can just spend money on the headset. Do I have to buy a research SDK for 750$ or the OpenVibe driver for the Emotiv headset written by Antoine Bouthors will do the trick?

    I am really thankful to you for guiding me. Thanks a lot.

    1. You are most welcome.

      Based on what I understand of OpenViBE (and this forum: http://openvibe.inria.fr/forum/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=688), it appears that you are correct. You will need the research SDK which comes with the EEG headset for a price of $750.

      The TestBench software that comes with the SDK is very helpful, and will give you a great way to view each channel of activity in real-time. It gives you a nice visual of the information before you start coding something up for yourself.

  5. Thanks Chris.

    I happended to go through this recent forum( http://openvibe.inria.fr/forum/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=909&view=next) where it says I need NOT buy the research SDK.

    It will save me a lot of money as a student. Will I miss some facilities of research SDK?

    1. Based on this (http://www.emotiv.com/corporate/refund.php?phrase_id=422446), it doesn't seem that you can return the headset in the event that it will not work for some reason, so make sure to do some more research before you purchase the headset alone instead of the research SDK.

      In terms of missing facilities, you would lose access to TestBench, meaning that you cannot record and view headset data in real-time WITHOUT having to write your own code. Also, in the case that the regular $299 headset does not work with OpenViBE, you would not be able to get access to raw data at all.

      I agree with you that the SDK and headset are expensive, especially for students. I recommend that you know for sure whether or not the basic headset will work before you buy it, that way you do not waste the $299.