The NEW foc.us V2 tDCS Device and Headsets, Part 1

IMG_1530
(The tiny V2 module is now the core of the foc.us tDCS product line.)

Introduction

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!

Enter foc.us

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.

IMG_4664
(The foc.us V1. Slick. Innovative.)

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.

  1. foc.us V2 tDCS Device – REQUIRED (does the work of producing the tiny DC current used in tDCS.)
  2. Gamer Headset (plugs into the V2 device. Electrodes positioned for stimulating certain types of learning)
  3. 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.

IMG_1512
(As expected from foc.us, innovative design and nice packaging.)

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.)

IMG_1564
(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.

IMG_1556
(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 nickel plated – instead of copper as in the v1. Better images are at www.foc.us)

Operation

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.

IMG_1545
(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.

IMG_1544
(Prompts are simple and clear.)

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

  1. 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.
  2. foc.us electrode sponges are much larger (and better quality) than with the v1 for better current distribution
  3. More comfortable headsets
  4. Can be used with foc.us, 3rd party, or user provided headsets and electrodes

Concerns

  1. 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.
  2. There were complaints that foc.us seemed overwhelmed when the v1 was released about two years ago – leading to spotty technical support and order-issue resolution problems. Has foc.us learned from the V1 experience?
  3. The V1 IOS app never 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.

Overall Impressions

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

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.

Bottom Line

The foc.us V2 is clearly more sophisticated and better designed than the typical tDCS device in the market right now.  Yes, it costs 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
http://www.speakwisdom.com

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 brent@speakwisdom.com

IMG_1549
(My crude but effective breakout of the new V2 four conductor plug. Yes, you can use Amrex and other electrodes.)

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24 comments on “The NEW foc.us V2 tDCS Device and Headsets, Part 1

  1. Hi Brent. I’ve looked here and throughout their site but don’t see any mention of whether the $200 developers kit comes with their ‘four conductor’ plug. And BTW, ‘four conductor’? That is not a style of audio connector I’m familiar with.

    I would likely use my own Amrex electrodes though the edge device is interesting. Still leaves the small matter of plugging into the box.

    • I’m not aware that the kit you mention comes with any extra plugs. I purchased mine from Parts Express for $3 or $4 (plug with 12″ wire already attached). The plug is 2.5 mm four conductor. It a bit unusual but has been used in some cell-phones for mic/stereo headsets (the 3.5 mm is much more common.)

      Details in my next blog post.

      Brent

  2. Espero con impaciencia tus proximos articulos, me acaba de llegar a casa el Foc.us V2 Gamer y la verdad que estoy un poco perdido ya que soy nuevo en este mundo.

    I look forward to your upcoming articles, I just came home the Foc.us Gamer V2 and the truth I’m a little lost as I am new to this world.

  3. I bought a foc.us device, along with the edge headset… I received it today and I must say I’m a little disappointed.

    There is no way of determining which was the cathode or the anode, if you hadn’t mentioned that one of the things goes on the shoulder I would still be lost. As it is, the strap seems to have the velco on the wrong side, which makes it impossible to wear. The fact that there isn’t more flexibility in making the placements is also a disappointment. That the tdcs subreddit recommends against the foc.us v1 doesn’t help my confidence.

    To top it off, the foc.us website is down. I realise now that there are several less flashy tdcs devices which would probably be better for my needs. Serves me right for not shopping around I guess :(.

    • Did you look at the pictures on their web site? The Edge headset is clearly marketed towards athletic improvement – definitely an experimental area of tDCS. It is not a general purpose tDCS headset. Also, if you will look CLOSELY at the pics and you will see how the strap goes ( http://www.foc.us/index.php/edge-tdcs-headset ). You have it backwards. I can’t comment on the web site being down – because I just checked it and it is up.

      It’s very important that anyone considering tDCS carefully do their homework.

      If you are not satisfied with the foc.us product, it is my experience they will take it back and issue a refund.

      Brent

      • You are correct, the site is not down, for some reason I can’t connect to it :\. As for the other stuff, I think I’ll be able to manage, the very uninformative manual and the site appearing to be down put me in a tailspin.

        It would be nice if the edge headset was detachable from the arm it has, but I can live with that I think. I’m a little concerned that the nickel plates are already starting to show signs of corrosion after a day of use, but I’ll see how it goes.

        Also, for some weird reason the device only chargers from some usb ports but not others…

  4. Hi Brent. I received my foc.us v2 and gamer headset a few days ago. Unfortunately, I can’t charge it because (as far as I can tell) the USB charger requires running a Windows system with foc.us USB drivers. Since I run a Mac, I can’t load such drivers. I have had it plugged into my Mac for a few days and it doesn’t power up at all.

    I contacted foc.us who only told me that I need to run the window drivers.

    Do you have any info about how else I might charge this thing up? Also, I’d love to know more details about how you adapted the 4-conductor plug to use your own leads, etc.

      • I do have other USB chargers around and have tried them without luck. Whenever I pull the device out of the charger and hold down the blue selector, I never see anything on the tdcs device. This is true whether I have the headset plugged into the device or not.

        I would be nice if there were some sort of charging light on the device…

        Anyway, thanks for the info.

      • You might have a defective unit. There is a charge indicator. The florescent display shows an outline of a battery and how full it is as it charges. I’ve used several different usb chargers with it and all worked.

        Brent

      • It turned out the unit was defective. I corresponded with Michael Oxley at foc.us and he had a new unit to me the next day (from the UK even). It’s charging right now (I see the battery indicator on the device that you mentioned).

        I’m impressed with their response.

        Thanks again for the info.

  5. I was not as lucky as Dann. I purchased the V2 and Gamer headset, but it has never worked properly. Shortly after I got it, it became impossible to turn the unit off. After the battery ran down, I was able to recharge it and it worked for a couple of days. Now, after fully charging the unit, it won’t turn on. Two weeks ago, I sent an email to Foc.us explaining the problem. They responded reasonably quickly saying they would be in touch with me within 2 business days. To date, I have yet to hear from them, even after sending a follow up email. It seems to me that they are selling a shoddy but expensive product and one has no recourse when they ignore their customers.

    • You receiving a defective device doesn’t mean they have a shoddy product. Give their support another shot – and try mike@foc.us . If that doesn’t work email me again. Their support seems to be a bit variable which is not good.

      Brent

      • Yes, Mike actually has been quite responsive to me. I had a problem some time later with my replacement device and Mike again was able to get a replacement device shipped to me promptly.

        I wish the first replacement device didn’t die, but that kind of thing happens sometimes. I’ve been quite happy with how they responded when it did.

  6. Pingback: Time to Take Another Look At foc.us tDCS and more | SpeakWisdom

  7. Hello Brent- I have a question for you…
    Someone I know is selling his foc.us v1.0 version device and while you did a really good job describing things (much better than anywhere else on the web I have found- thus the reason I am contacting YOU! lol)
    Can a person update the v1.0 version with update software made for the v2.0 or is someone stuck with what the v1.0 has? Also, do you know if the new program they have out on android for v2.0 also work on the v1.0 version?

    I would prefer to buy the v1.0 version from this person because it will be much less expensive than buying the new 2.0 version from the site. Not to mention I have read negative stories all over the place on the orders taking forever to show up- or not showing up all and many people unable to get any response from the company which has me very concerned- so I might rather just order from someone that already has their device.
    Also, does the v1.0 do the 4 different functions the v2.0 does? With up to 2.0 mA? The direct current, the alternating current, the pulse current and the random noise current?
    Are the Hz leves the same as well, and volt amounts the same from the 1.0 to the 2.0?

    I would SO appreciate a response back, thank you!

    Jason

      • I caution anyone purchasing the V2 until they upgrade their customer support options. They don’t have a number to call and they don’t respond to email. The latest software they put out bricked my device. And they don’t appear to want to own up to it.

  8. Meegan,

    Have foc.us replied to you?. I’m hesitant to purchase due to your customer service experience. Today is 20150826. It is 17 days since you posted your warning. Any response?

  9. Hi Eric, Nope! I’ve posted on their facebook AND twitter. Many are having the same issue. Though it’s really cool, I wouldn’t take the chance of getting a bricked version. Some people are receiving them Dead on arrival without any response back. My v2 is still bricked. Others have sent back, without replacements. The company basically stole from them.
    There really is something wonky going on. When they first started out, they were awesome, customer service was above par. In fact I purchased their v1 which is what I’m using right now in replacement because it still works on a basic setting. Until they get back on track, I’d hold off. Not saying you should never buy one, only hold until they have addressed all the open customer service issues. (see their facebook and twitter). Cheers~Meegan

  10. Brent
    Please put a detailed log of who to use V2 with the headset usage please. Your V1 log was really well put together. I am a newbie and trying to understand proper usage.

    MI

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