Claiming to help neurons fire faster, the headset is supposed to help gamers "overclock" their brains by passing an electrical current through the prefrontal cortex. "Excite your prefrontal cortex and get the edge in online gaming," says the Foc.us website. Transcranial direct-current stimulation, as the practice is called, has been used to treat patients with depression and brain injuries. Some potential use cases for the technology include helping students learn a new language or training drone controllers to better guide unmanned autonomous aircrafts.
Foc.us is worn on the head for five to 10 minutes, though it is unclear how long the effects last. Some early reviews with the prototype suggest there are lingering effects, even after removing the headset.
Engadget's Nicole Lee said she experienced a burning and tingling sensation with Foc.us:
We strapped the headset on for ourselves at a recent event, and we found it to be a weird experience. There was a strange, almost burning, sensation on the right part of our forehead, while the rest merely tingled. Oxley told us that it was normal for some people to feel it more on one side than the other, and that tDCS does take some getting used to. After about eight minutes, the tingling sensation remained even after we removed the headset. We didn't really feel our powers of concentration improve that much afterward, but it's hard to say after such a limited time.
Meanwhile, Megan Geuss at Ars Technica reported seeing spots:
It fit comfortably and the headset has a crescendo start, so it wasn’t jolting (pun intended) when the headset turned on. Unfortunately, Foc.us didn’t have a gaming rig set up at demo day, so I can’t tell you whether it actually improves performance. I can say that I started feeling a very noticeable but somewhat pleasant shock in the rear left of my brain in addition to a light buzzy feeling all over my head. I also started seeing white spots in my peripheral vision, especially in my upper right view. If you are epileptic, do not use this headset.
Foc.us maintains that the headset meets required regulatory standards. Yet without an FDA approval, it likely faces roadblocks, if not because some people might be wary of shocking their brains to improve their gaming abilities (how much are bragging rights worth, exactly?), then because wearers can look as ridiculous as the models above. Still, Foc.us is preparing to ship this month for $279.
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