For such a technologically advanced device, the NIA sure doesn't look especially impressive. The NIA only has two pieces, the headband and the control unit. The headband consists of a long piece of molded rubber with a channel through the center for a wire to pass through. A short length of cord is attached to either end of the rubber headband and a plastic adjustable locking nut holds the headband in a circular shape. The wire feeds into the headband from the right side and connects to the three diamond-shaped sensors at the front of the headband. The other side of the wire ends in a 3-pin plug that connects to the front of the NIA control unit. The headband wire is about 3 feet long which gives you plenty of slack to work with.
As you can see in the picture above, the headband is made from a single piece of molded rubber. It isn't painted and the edges created by the mold haven't even been shaved off. When you first take it out of the box, it even has a bit of "new car smell". Unfortunately the headband ends up looking somewhat cheap. The upshot is the headband is very flexible and fairly comfortable when worn.
The three diamond-shaped sensors are positioned on the headband so they make contact with your forehead. The sensors are manufactured using carbon nanofiber technology. The soft plastic is used as a substrate for the carbon-fibers which are injected into it during manufacturing. Each of the three sensors are connected to the wire that runs through the headband.
The raw data from the sensors is collected by the NIA control unit. Unlike the headband, the control unit looks very nice. The unit is shielded in a brushed aluminum case that's been anodized black with the letters "nia" painted on the top in white. While the headband connects to the front of the unit, the rear of the unit features a standard B-type USB 2.0 port. The NIA uses USB for all data transmission and also for power, there is no separate AC adapter to clutter your desk. The NIA sits on four non-slip rubber feet and is no bigger than two older iPods stacked on top of each other.
The overall build quality of the NIA is mixed. While the NIA control unit has excellent build quality and looks very nice, the rubber headband looks and feels somewhat cheap. Unfortunately, we discovered after two short weeks that the headband's build quality is quite low since one of the sensors became partially detached. While this didn't effect functionality at all, it does make us worry about how long the unit will last. Setup
Setting up the NIA is a very simple procedure. Simply connect the headband to the control unit and the control unit to your computer with a USB cable (one is included). The NIA comes with a driver CD with the necessary software. The actual software is fairly small, consisting of only an EXE, three DLLs and some tutorial videos. Installation is a breeze and you'll be installed and running in no time.
While the NIA software is small and "lite", it is not simple. In fact it is quite complex and very powerful as you'll see on the next page.