One London-based company is hoping to use electric shocks to make better gamers.
Today Foc.us announced Moovs, its new $100 headset that targets the prefrontal cortex of the brain with electric shocks in a process known as transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). Essentially, it uses small currents of electricity — ranging from 0.1mA to 2.0mA — to stimulate parts of the brain that Foc.us cofounder Michael Oxley says are used for higher functions like image recognition and working memory. The idea is that using Moovs can boost performance as gaming relies heavily on these types of skills. With prize pools of up to $10 million up for grabs in competitive video game tournaments (aka esports), plenty of people out there may appreciate any advantage they can get.
Over the last 10 years, many studies have discussed the benefits of tDCS on the brain, including potential boosts to memory, problem-solving, and mathematical performance. It’s still a controversial area of research, though — despite tDCS use cutting U.S. Air Force pilot training time in half — as some studies refute that this treatment provides any benefits. A recent University of North Carolina study also claimed that tDCS use is detrimental to IQ scores.
Other tDCS devices are available on the market, but Foc.us says it’s the only company to have released an FCC-approved consumer product aimed specifically at gamers. Oxley told GamesBeat that Foc.us tDCS devices have been shown to increase users’ ability in n-back memory games — a common neuroscience assessment task that measures working memory.
“Benefits are usually observed from first usage provided [the electrodes] are placed correctly,” Oxley said.
He claims that “tens of thousands” of people have safely tried out tDCS with Foc.us products. He explained that the generally accepted safe conditions are to “limit usage to a maximum of 40 minutes at 2mA every other day.”
Certain groups of people should avoid using Moovs and other tDCS devices, though, according to Oxley. Specifically, people with epilepsy, brain lesions, bipolar depression, or severe heart disease and people under the age of 18.
A firmware update is apparently due later this month that will remind Foc.us users not to overdo the treatment.