(This tiny module is now the core of the foc.us tDCS product line.)
Once again, foc.us has distanced itself from the rest of the tDCS device pack. If you are in the market for an innovative tDCS device that is sophisticated and simple to use, I think you will be very pleased with the foc.us v2. tDCS is all about delivering a tiny current to the brain in order to improve it or provide relief from a brain-related condition. Here is a way to do it with a cool device that works well!
The first foc.us headset moved the bar on tDCS devices by offering a huge feature set (built-on or external electrodes, wearable, Bluetooth support, iOS app, etc.), and a moderate price. I don’t have any sales data on the foc.us v1 headset, but I’ll guess foc.us sold more than a few. I happen to own more than one and use them often. I’ve also helped many others achieve tDCS success with the foc.us v1.
As a radically new design from a brand-new start-up, the foc.us v1 was not without its problems or detractors. There were production problems, support problems, unpolished features and more – that for some made it hard to see the real core value of the headset as a tDCS treatment device. But given how far foc.us pushed the DIY tDCS market, those of us who really learned how to use the headset were (and are) thrilled to have it.
The foc.us v2
foc.us did not stand still though. Based on experience with the v1, user input, and their own vision of what tDCS could become, the foc.us v2 tDCS device and accessories have been created and are now moving toward distribution. The new device has three basic parts of which the buyer can purchase as desired.
- foc.us v2 tDCS Device – REQUIRED (does the work of producing the tiny DC current used in tDCS.)
- Gamer Headset (plugs into the v2 device. Electrodes positioned for stimulating certain types of learning)
- EDGE Headset (Plugs into the v2 device. Electrodes positioned to possibly enhance athletic performance.)
The v2 tDCS device itself is now a tiny module not much bigger than some USB flash-keys. It is programmable, has a graphical display, a joy-stick like control for selection of desired tDCS parameters, and is rechargeable and updateable (firmware) via a USB base.
The Gamer headset is a flexible band with two electrodes designed to reach the pre-frontal cortex area of the brain – an area thought to respond nicely to tDCS for improvement in some types of thinking and learning (concentration, planning, judgment, etc.)
(The new foc.us Gamer headset. Bigger sponges, very comfortable. Shown on my “test head”. There are better photos at www.foc.us)
The EDGE headset represents new ground for a commercial tDCS device. Many of us have wondered how long it would take the world of athletics to discover tDCS and the potential it holds for improving performance in many competitive and non-competitive sports. To that end, foc.us offers the EDGE headset designed to place the anode in the area of the premotor cortex (coordinates complex movements) and the cathode on the upper arm. Much research and experimentation in this realm of tDCS is needed, but suffice it to say that one day the top performers on your favorite sports team may be using tDCS during at least some of their training.
(foc.us calls attention to the possibilities for athletic improvements via tDCS and the EDGE headset. Shown on my test head. Foc.us headset sponge-sockets are now backed with nickel plated – instead of copper as in the v1. Better images are at www.foc.us)
I was fortunate enough to have received a foc.us v2 at the beginning of December, 2014, with an early firmware and feature set. Suffice it to say that, even in its early form, it performs well and is very easy to use.
Using the v2 is simple: Unpack the v2 tDCS device and place it on the USB charger for an hour or two to fully charge. Meanwhile, remove two sponges from the sealed envelope supplied with your foc.us headset, wet them a bit (saline if you prefer), and place them in the sponge sockets (or use your own electrodes and headband as described in the next blog post.)
With the headset in place and plugged into the v2 device, press the blue joystick on the v2 tDCS device to activate it. Then simply step through the prompts to setup your tDCS session parameters.
(The display is easy to read. Duration and current are easily changed.)
Your tDCS session will begin with a short ramp-up time and then a count-down of the session time remaining. Actual current delivered is displayed and graphed. You can press on the joystick at any time to immediately end a session.
For you techie folks: Note that the foc.us v2 does contain a boost circuit to overcome electrode and skin resistance – as do many commercial tDCS devices. I measured a peak of 56 volts as the v2 tried to compensate for my high-impedance load test and deliver the selected current level. At no time was I ever able to exceed the current level I had programmed on the v2 device.
A Few of the Many Enhancements Over the foc.us V1
- Very small, portable, tDCS device. You could easily Velcro it into your cap or just put it in your pocket. It is easily programmed for desired tDCS settings.
- foc.us electrode sponges are much larger (and better quality) than with the v1 for better current distribution
- More comfortable headsets
- Can be used with foc.us, 3rd party, or user provided headsets and electrodes
- Three or four tDCS sessions seems sufficient to drain the battery in the early production device. I think it will be a good habit to put the v2 device on its charger when not in use.
- There were complaints that foc.us seemed overwhelmed when the v1 was release about two years ago – leading to spotty technical support and order-issue resolution problems. Has foc.us learned from the v1 experience?
- The v1 IOS app never really seemed to reach a solid feature completion. It works – but… Will the v2 app be better? foc.us says it will. They have a new programming team and will release a new app for the v1 and v2 in the January/February timeframe. But to be clear, you DO NOT need an app to use the v2 very effectively.
I’m very pleased with my early copy of the v2. It works well, is tiny, easy to use, and produces clean, predictable output. The new foc.us headsets are innovative and comfortable. The v2 represents a nice step forward for foc.us and for the DIY tDCS community. I look forward to continued development of the v2, firmware, apps, and 3rd party add-ons that are likely to come.
Pricing is about the same as with the v1 (it was about $250 plus $50 for a needed accessory kit.) The v2 is $199 for the tDCS module. foc.us supplied headsets are priced at $99. A pack of 12 foc.us sponges is $5. You are free to use 3rd party or your own electrodes if you prefer (details in my next post.) See www.foc.us for ordering details.
The foc.us v2 is clearly more sophisticated and better designed than the typical tDCS device in the market right now. Yes, it cost more than entry-level devices – but as the saying goes, “you get what you pay for”. If you are serious about tDCS for yourself or someone you know, the foc.us v2 deserves your consideration.
Brent Williams, PhD
Coming at www.speakwisdom.com
Over the next weeks and months, I’ll post a number of articles about the foc.us v2, use, applications, and more. Feel free to contact me with your questions and comments via firstname.lastname@example.org