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Is the EPOC able to be used as a full support device, for wheelchair control, home automation or mental typing?

We must provide a warning that the EPOC is not designed as a medical device. It is designed for use by consumers in games, interactions with PCs and some interesting control applications. The technology is capable of being used in a support setting but the onus and risk lie with the application developer and the end user, who must convince themselves that the device and the safeguards built into their equipment/software fully take into account the characteristics of the EPOC. In particular, the EPOC must not be used for critical care or critical control functions such as mental control of a wheelchair, unless there are serious safeguards and fail-safe shutdown systems which can over-ride the EPOC commands. All mental detection systems suffer from a finite rate of false positive and false negative detections. In other words, sometimes a detection can occur without the user's deliberate intention, and sometimes a deliberate attempt to make an action occur may fail or select a different output. This is as much to do with the user's level of training and state of mind as it is to do with the detection systems - it is unavoidable in any BCI system. Any critical function controlled by the EPOC must have an independent kill operation which the user can reliably invoke, and must put the system in a safe state.

That said, there are many people developing support systems, wheelchair and robotic controllers, home automation systems and so on and there is no reason that paralyzed users should not be able to take advantage of these systems - but make sure they are safe!! The level of control is more than adequate for successful use in a lot of settings, but please be careful.

Mental typing is definitely achievable, and there are several approaches to communications using the EPOC. The NeuroKey application and several others like it allow the user to select letters or options using Mental Commands, Facial Expressions and gyro controls, and most of these packages allow control options to be restricted all the way back to Mental Commands-only for those with the least capabilities. This is an important area and there are new applications in development and popping out of the woodwork all the time.

Another approach to mental typing (and other control systems) can be realized with EPOC with EEG access. These headsets additionally provide access to raw EEG data in real time, and two major real-time BCI research software packages now support the EPOC - these are OpenViBE (from India in France) and BCI2000 (from Wadsworth Center in USA). Both packages include a built-in P300 spelling system - this is a different method than Mental Commands to select items from a large panel of objects, and the implementation uses a keyboard layout with individual letters to be selected. The process is not quick, but it can be remarkably accurate. It takes up to 25 sec to select a letter but this definitely works even for locked-in users. We are only just beginning to explore the potential applications of the vast array of BCI research which has been conducted already. It it is fantastic that these packages support the EPOC and this will allow a much greater number of users to access this amazing research using an inexpensive and convenient system such as the EPOC.
 

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