Instaling and Calibrating the NIA
Putting the NIA to work is very simple: just plug it into a spare USB 2.0 port and adjust the headband over your forehead. But the NIA is not a plug-and-play device. The “play” part is some time away from the moment you install it. Simplicity is not on the peripheral’s dictionary. First you need to calibrate the NIA using the OCZ software that you have to install. That allows the neural actuator to understand eight types of different inputs – some concerning your facial and eye movements, and some inputs coming from your brainwaves (three for alpha waves and three for beta waves). From that moment you have to associate those readings to game commands. But do not be think that the NIA reads thoughts like “run” or “shoot” and makes that happen on the game – it actually interprets the electrical signals behind the physical reactions to those thoughts, like making your character jump when you squint, for instance.
Everything is done by following a video tutorial that guides the user with the help of a virtual assistant. The complex software is very comprehensive and can be mindboggling to the uninitiated or very frustrating to those who like to get their hands on right from the start. The first step you must take is to calibrate the unit – and it must be done every time you use the NIA – to make sure it’s getting a good signal from the headband. Just relax your face and keep looking to the image of a gyroscope for a minute.
Once the NIA is calibrated, it’s time to master the concept of “brainfingers” – a metaphor for the control to be exerted by the alpha and beta waves coming from your brain, like fingers to a puppet. The Brainfingers screen measures the brain activity. After that you can exert your mental prowess over a game of Pong.
After mastering the NIA control, the user must link several events (like left clicking the mouse button or hitting the space bar) to attitudes like relaxing your face to make your character on screen walk backwards or grinding your teeth to shoot. It’s the facial joystick concept. Although we abbreviate the whole experience, the process is very complex and not quite well documented by the NIA manual. So we made it through with a little more than brains and brawn, by trial and error, or just selecting one of the games pre-profiled by OCZ (there’s options like Half-Life 2, Gears of Wars and a generic WASD profile). After all, you can’t use a brainwave device suffering from a massive headache after trying to configure and master it…