Interview with Dr. Michael Schuette, VP of Technology Development @ OCZ

Untitled-6Firstly I want to thank my bud @EdRabbit and his friend @VioletBlue who are in the San Francisco area for giving me a hand at Interviewing and Demoing at OCZ HQ.  Located in San Jose, CA. with me being in Chicago (and in this economy) they opted to do the foot work for me, much thanks, you two did a stellar job!  I hope you two had a lot of fun 🙂

For more information on the OCZ NIA you can read ther review we did for the device HERE. For some custom mods that have been done by its development community and can find the links to various Applications HERE.

And you can join in the discutions within its community HERE Listening to the audio interview, and then myself having a talk with Dr. Michael Schuette on the phone, Ive come to gain a lot of respect for OCZ and where they have gone with the NIA, their philosophies on BCI and business within its market in general.

For those that don’t know, OCZ is a manufacturer of High Performance RAM for anything from “1337 gaming rigs” to professional engineering machines that run ProE and SolidWorks at the same time.  A lot of people down talk it because it doesn’t do what they expect it to.  When in fact it does more than what they let on, and have plans in the future to do even more.  Dr. Schuette even says: “Even with the current device we have, its technology is years ahead of our competitors in terms of its capabilities.

The underlying principal is that it’s nothing but biofeedback.  You see that you’re doing something that you want to do and your body starts to give you a positive feedback.

If you’re trying really hard to do it, it won’t work.  If you’re off your target or its doing something you don’t want it to do, your body will give off a negative feedback. And that’s one of the biggest problems we’ve been having trying to get this device to market is because everybody says “We need a tutorial we need a manual to show us how to get this to work!”  Do I know what I’m doing? Hell no, but I know it’s working, you know it’s working, you see it working. Just sit back and relax and sit back and watch yourself.  We’ve been sorta shooting ourselves in the foot saying with calling one of our capabilities ”Muscle Control” and we’ve got all our competitors saying well “…we are using Brain Waves” and  “We are using Brain responses.”

And seriously if you look at what [our competitors] are doing, they are using “Smile”… you know what “Smile” is?  That’s a muscle response.   Everyone’s using muscles.” He goes on to say “The NIA has the capabilities to read the other brain waves [Alpha, beta, delta, gamma, and theta].  Before we went into mass production we actually scaled back from 42 frequencies to 8 due to pure processing issues by most high end gaming machines standards (And OCZ knows Gaming machine Standards).  We had to cut those back just to keep the readings in real time, and real time was something that was very important to us. “

When we asked Michael about different projects and what was going on in the BCI world he had this to say. “Things like Law Enforcement in reference to ‘Prior Knowledge Detection’; which is light years ahead in power and effectiveness than a  polygraph, market research, automotive, controls of different apparatuses.  Picking up abnormal brain patterns, preventing accidents, be it drug abuse, drunk, or simply being too tired where it would put the drivers or other drivers at risk by means of not being attentive.  All BCI devices are going to get a huge boost soon.   And Im kind of hoping with the Uncle Bradley & Mattel Approach (referencing NeuroSkys partners), that it sets the pace for marketing for BCI in general. The problem is some [Businesses] have wasting a lot of invested money.  One is from a big name company for $20mil for what they call finding a way to gauge people’s emotional states during conference calls or let’s say negotiations.

Untitled-9They even at some point claimed they mapped over 60,000 emotions.  And do you know what happened?  Nothing.  It doesn’t work like that. I can tell you it doesn’t work like that because that certain commonality between different people is on a very crude level.  It doesn’t work because everybody’s brain works in a different way.   Ask 10 different people to watch a video clip and have them explain it to you, and you have 10 different versions of that video clip. We are however involved with a lot of different projects right now.  We have budget constraints and personnel constraints and that’s why unfortunately we are way way behind schedule on our projects. But I still hope to pull them off one way or any other. We are working with ane outfit; I can’t really talk about who it is, but what they are doing falls in the category of prior knowledge testing that I mentioned before; truth testing.  The way how this works is really simple.  You give someone a specific stimulus, or let them think of the stimulus, something that produces a negative reaction.  And then give them something that invokes a negative reaction and you use those two to create a “Signature”.  We would take what you would see on the NIA software configuration, expand that and add a few more frequencies.  And the ratio between the Negative and Positive would produce that specific persons Signature.   Now after you’ve established that signature you can present that person with a random slide show.

And the interesting thing about that there is a period which is called the “P300 period” or the “P300 Time” which is the 300 milliseconds before a conscience choice is made. We can then gauge the frequencies within that P300 Period up against that persons Signature.  The technology can be used in, not so much gaining proof of having done something wrong.  But if you have the possibility of presenting somebody the details of a crime scene and unequivocally establishing whether that person had any knowledge of that, you can then throw out 90% of false suspects.  People can’t lie about not knowing about something.  There’s no conscious control.  It’s a substantial improvement to a very beatable Polly graph test if you know how to beat one.  You can’t beat your own conscience.  You can’t influence the ratio between all the different brain waves.  Especially if you don’t know what your specific signature is.  It’s pretty powerful. I’ve made good progress with Futuremark who is coming out with a game in October.  And they are interested in potentially putting in something where you could use the NIA for bonus levels where you can use the brain fingers to accomplish tasks Sadly the economy is not where we want it to be.  And the NIA isn’t the only project a company like OCZ has on their table.  If it was up to me, yea I’d do them all and would already be released.” When I asked about the much anticipated SDK this is what Dr. Schulltte had to say: The problem with the SDK is that the very economical hardware we used is based on a very secret algorithm, which is the Source Code that Andrew at BrainFingers owns.  This is Andrews nest egg that he uses as his source of income.

We are still trying to work a way around the SDK where that part of the source code stays proprietary, but allows enthusiasts to develop. Unfortunately everybody’s mindset and expectations are somewhat different and that has created some frictions.  Thankfully the pull down menu in the original software has so many possibilities within the existing software where the community has been able to make due with what we are able to legally provide. Wrapping things up, I asked about what he sees the future of BCI being, the markets that will be targeted, and how it will affect our daily lives: “One thing I’m particularly concerned about is the geriatric market.  There are a lot of elderly people out there who were born before the computer age for example my mom who is 85 yrs old now and she got her first PC when she was 75, and she’s managed to do things like email and word processing.

One time I showed her the Pong Game, now she’s never played a computer game in her life, and when attempting to use the NIA she was blown away by it, and is now the superstar of her group of friends who now also play it with her.  She was able to use it so well because brain functions are so intuitive, you don’t need prior knowledge of computers as much as you would when playing say a FPS game.”

“First time we are pealing back the layers of distraction that the human brain has built over the last 10,000 – 50,000 years from thought, to language to written thought to machines then a writing language to speak to electronics to make them perform actions that we command them to do.

Now we are pealing those layers back off and we are now getting a chance at a direct interface between brain and machine interpreting thought, its quite amazing and interesting thing to experience and watch evolve. 6min demo Michael did for @EdRabbit and @VioletBlue I

Id like to thank Dr Schuette and OCZ for having us and being so open about such an interesting topic.  I wish them all the luck in the world and to keep continuing to push the boundries and to keep on developing for the future.

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Steven Caputo is a 37 year old 16yr Technology Professional presently working out of Chicago, IL. In his free time; an artist, a musician, a geek, a gamer, a philosophy/neuroscience junkie, and nano coral-reef aquarist. His opinions are his own, especially the weird stuff!

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