Codys EPOC Hack

On 9.13.2010 Emotiv forums lit up with the news of its EPOC device being hacked, promptly the post made by Cody Brocious (Daeken) was taken down and removed.  The next day, a post was createdto merely discuss the existence of the hack, some cheered, some sneered, even one of the admins (Read: Research Manager and CTO) jumped in on the discussion.  And from reading there really is a divide in the comprehension of what hacking this device means. What the hack allows is raw EEG data available from the ($300) consumer EPOC unit, which is only a perk of the ($750) Research EPOC unit in which I am sure you are bound by some sort of NDA.


The admin that posted made it seem like because of this, Emotiv may have to close their doors and go out of business due to “skittish investors” and that the Research Unit is a “substantial part of our revenue” However, as a poster even points out: “on what planet is a bare bones driver written in python the equivalent of a research SDK?”  And to further that, most people buying a research unit are doing so for profit, and you can’t very well make a profit off someone else’s technology using their equipment without being sanctioned to do so…the research unit gives you that ability.  And the other far-fetched idea that some other company will come along and….steal open data…..?

I don’t know who’s got who drinking the kool-aid over at Emotiv, but there seems to be an ample supply to go around.

Personally if your investors pulled the rug out from under you that quick, you were already working on borrowed time for one reason or another, your next scape goat could be sneezing in the wrong direction.  He goes on to talk about “It’s all well and good to demonstrate how smart you are by hacking the iPhone – Apple can afford to lose some revenue”.  I’d really like to know how and why this guy thinks that the iPhone getting hacked cost Apple money.  Maybe someone should not only point out to him that it increased its sales….but that Androids entire business model and popularity is based on the fact that there are so many Android hackers customizing devices to the way CONSUMERS want.  It’s no wonder their investors are skittish….they have people like this they are throwing money at. I decided to have a small chat with Cody to get a little insight as to what he thought of the whole situation. This is what he had to say….


How have things been going since its news came out?

Things have been going quite well. We’ve received a great deal of support from the community, and at this point we have support for nearly everything the EPOC has. Linux support is now solid, and we can read the raw EEG data with the same precision as the official SDK.


I’ve seen the community take the discovery with open arms, but I’ve heard Emotiv themselves haven’t been to happy, what actions have they taken, if any at all regarding it?

I heard they are looking to patch the hole and stop selling devices till it’s fixed. Emotiv has been posting various things on their forum in response to Emokit, but they haven’t contacted me, or — to my knowledge — Github (which hosts the source). It looks like they’re going to attempt to battle this on a purely technical level. You mentioned earlier that you had just recently got into EEG and BCI devices.


What was it that first caught your eye? And what about it intrigued you?


I really got into this because it’s the intersection of device hacking, which I’ve done for ages, and brain hacking, which I’m very new to. The EPOC is the highest quality EEG device for its price, as far as I’m aware, and presented an opportunity for me to mix two of my passions. I’m really looking forward to what people do with it now that Emokit is getting to be close to production ready.


Have you taken a look at the other two commercially available BCI devices (Mindset and OCZs NIA) or have any thoughts on them?


I’ve looked quickly at them, but haven’t gotten my hands on either.  The reason I chose to go after the EPOC was the large sensor count, which is really quite impressive for the price.

Yea, it is actually. My relationship with the NIA and Mindset people have been overly “open arms”, they are some great people working in those two places, my inquiry’s to Emotiv have always been less “friendly” or open, and robotic responses, and from the reaction Ive seen from one of their techs about the whole situation. Do you think this sort of relationship that Emotiv puts out will change in the future in general towards their users?


I think it has to. If they don’t change the way they’re doing things, there’s no chance they’re going to survive. Right now they’re attacking the people driving development for their product (being called a ‘pirate’ repeatedly on the Emotiv forum spawned me to write “The Hardware Hacker Manifesto” a couple days ago, in fact) rather than embracing it and using the open development community to drive sales of their product to consumers. They seem to think that because they have tech, they’re going to sell units, where it’s really a large library of software that will sell units. They’ll either figure that out or someone else will.


In closing, we are living in a technological age, one in which no one person can see what the future holds.  One thing can be certain; it is and will be the people who control it.  When it comes to the subject of the mind, you will not have a shortage of the same curiosity that gave birth to the first computer hacker, in fact, there will be an exponential amount as the opportunities present themselves, because I believe our mind is the most powerful and complex element in the entire universe, to some, that’s a scary thought, but to me personally, it gives me hope knowing curiosity and innovation without restrictions is what will drive out future, and not fear.

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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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