Readers may remember the original foc.us headset launched back in 2013 which used tDCS technology to offer a new gaming experience.
By applying a small controlled DC electric current to the user’s brain the idea is to improve overall cognitive performance through reaction times, etc. This unfortunately is known as ‘brain zapping’ and ‘overclocking’ – terminology that is more reminiscent of ECT (electro-convulsive therapy) and compares the human brain as a machine to that of a CPU in a computer.
Technology has moved rapidly since, (Lucidity Institute take note) to the point where health, fitness and sleep gadget wearables which interact with the user and associated smartphone technology are all the rage on crowdfunding sites and the Internet in general.
With 40 Hz tACS (transcanial alternating current stimulation) being the new buzz word in certain lucid dreaming circles, it is no surprise that the latest foc.us device comes with this option. This follows from the results published in Nature Neuroscience in May 2014 by Ursula Voss, et al.
The foc.us v2 device itself is about the size of a small MP3 player. It offers several different output waveform modes besides tACS including a sham option. A bit like a glorified signal generator rather than an IC 555.
It is user customisable via an OLED menu interface where you can set individual modes, current, frequency, voltage output, and timings, etc.
The device has a 32-bit ARM processor, Bluetooth LE, and it comes with a charging pod. Skin impedance changes are detected in microseconds resulting in a corresponding voltage change to the output.
Android, Apple and Microsoft apps are supported, but Linux and iOS currently are not.
A lot of these built in features are for the serious researcher rather than for the casual gamer or weekend oneironaut. This is reflected in the reduced price of $199 for the developer’s version.
The eDream program is designed to deliver 40 Hz tACS gamma waveform starting at 0.125 mA current.
Importantly fo.cus v2 does not have REM detection whatsoever. Instead it relies on a built in 3-axis accelerometer and timer estimation. This is why the lucid dreaming kit comes with the $9 wearable soft mask so you can fit the device inside to detect head or body movements.
The kit also comprises the moovs electrode pair priced at $99 which use hydrogel electrode pads applied to dry skin to target the prefrontal cortex.
Other designs like ‘EDGE’ and ‘made for foc.us’ open standard headsets are also available however.
The early tDCS foc.us models relied on the more traditional sponge electrodes.
It should be noted that the gaming option uses the same relative frontal electrode positioning as utilised in lucid dreaming, which is a bit disconcerting where you may end up better at GTA IV than actual dream control.
The current foc.us website (typos, page link errors and pricing anomalies aside) does nothing to allay this. The photos and illustrations showing the relative electrode positioning seems more akin to the blind man playing pin the tail on the donkey, especially when you compare the montage used in the actual 40 Hz tACS Nature Neuroscience study (below.)
Size: 56mm x 29mm x 14mm
Battery: 3.7V Li-Po 180mAh rechargeable
Max current: 2.05mA
Max voltage: 60V
Bluetooth: 4.0 Bluetooth low energy GATT profile
FCC ID: 2AAH6NUFC9
CE certified safe – featuring triple current regulation, voltage control and misuse timers.
Undoubtedly this is an improvement over the original foc.us headset which was aimed primarily at the gaming community.
Transcranial claim to have made over 300 improvements since, including addressing the impedance issue which some users experienced with v1.
However this is a tool more suited to the dedicated brain hacker or researcher due to the extra programmable options and features.
For lucid dreaming the foc.us neuro-stimulator is simply a non-starter as there is no REM detection as stated earlier. It has yet to be proven. There are basically no reviews published so far. Even with the eDream firmware 2.1 update you are still relying on a timer which is trial and error, even with the built in accelerometer.
(All photos copyright © 2015 Transcranial Limited. All rights reserved)