Brainwave controlled cat ears! The idea sounds absolutely crazy, but I’ve been intrigued by Neurowear’s Necomimi ever since it first hit the headlines over a year ago. Their promotional video explaining the concept of the Necomimi has since achieved over two million views.
Neurowear have started out with the idea of developing fashion items and gadgets using brainwaves, with the Necomimi being the first of their products. I really can’t imagine how they’ll follow it up, though they claim to have other items in the works.
Powered by NeuroSky brainwave technology, the Necomimi uses brainwave signals transmitted via sensors to determine your state of mind. This causes the cat ears to move up or down, depending on your mood, essentially letting others know how you’re feeling. If the ears are raised then it means that the wearer is focused on something (having them perk up quickly suggests high focus). If the ears droop down then the wearer is in a sate of relaxation. Having the ears wiggling back and forth signifies high interest.
The Necomimi went on sale in Japan from the end of April and is slowly trickling out to other countries worldwide. Upon opening the box, as well as the Necomimi itself there’s a “lets get started guide” and a 90-day warranty. On first glance the Necomimi is insanely cute! It has three sensors; one sensor bar touches your forehead, while an ear clip has two sensors and is attached to your left ear lobe. There’s a strap at the back to stop the device from falling forwards off of your head, which can be tightened or loosed as you see fit. Depending on the size of your head you might find the forehead sensor quite intrusive. The instructions state that it should be placed above your left eyebrow. Unless you have really long hair, there’s no real way to hide it.
The device takes four AAA batteries, which supposedly gives the Necomimi four hours of continuous use. I’ve mainly been using some cheapo brand batteries, which gave me between 2 – 3 hours. When battery life is low then the power button (which has an image of the Necomimi ears on it) will start to flash. It’s not as heavy as I imagined it would be. With the ears on and the batteries in, it weighs about 210 grams. The large size of the ears does make them more expressive (they’re about 9cm high), but because of that they’ve been mistaken for bunny ears a few times. I’ve placed a 50p piece between them in the picture to offer some perspective on its size.
When first switching it on, the right ear will slowly droop down, signifying that it is calibrating. On occasions (or for me at least), the Necomimi has taken a very long time to properly calibrate. I’ve had them stuck in one position at times, causing me to think that maybe they were broken or that maybe I have no emotion. For other people I was amazed to see that it would start up very quickly. If the Necomimi does appear to be stuck, or forever calibrating, then there’s probably something in the way of the sensors (most likely a bit of hair) causing it to disconnect. In such situations it’s best to take it off and put it back on again. For anyone thinking that the ears are moving randomly once switched on, if the sensors aren’t touching anything then it will produce no movement.
As much as you’ll be able to hear it (the motors of the Necomimi are quite noisy), the somewhat odd yet obvious thing is that you can’t really see what’s happening. You’ll find yourself wanting to run in front of a mirror as soon as you put it on, however the effect it has is not really meant for the wearer, but those around them. It may initially appear to be a novelty, but Neurowear have been promoting it as a communication tool. With this in mind, it depends on if the wearer is comfortable on communicating their feelings via the Necomimi to anyone that is willing to notice. So if your partner is talking to you about having forgot their birthday, and the ears are down, then they probably won’t be too pleased that you’re not focused on what they’re saying.
I wore them while walking around May’s MCM Expo this past weekend, passing dealers and stands. I was told that the ears were in the upright position when enquiring about Pocky Dessert with one dealer. When playing videogames there was one moment where the ears were moving wildly back and forth to the point where they were becoming very noisy, so I decided to turn them off. The response amongst fellow attendees also seemed to be wholly positive, where I was receiving compliments (!) and the odd scream of, “Oh my God, they’re moving!”
For anyone intending to cosplay a feline character, then the Necomimi will certainly be of interest. Thinking of cosplaying Felicia from Darkstalkers? Then the standard white/pink ears would make the Necomimi a very likely purchase. The ears are interchangeable, with additional different style ears on the way, though if you’re creatively inclined then I imagine you could even make your own. The packing shows what looks like demon horns, so you could for example use different ears to match whatever you’re cosplaying.
The device will definitely make you stand out from the crowd, that’s for sure. While it might not receive everyday use, I predict that numerous cosplayers will soon all be wearing the Necomimi. However, when looking further down the line, particularly when it comes to future conventions or MCM Expo events, I can slowly envision it losing the unique factor because of that very reason. Nevertheless I do think they’re pretty cool, and would definitely recommend them provided you’re comfortable with communicating your feelings to others without the need for words. However, one specific matter that could be an issue (and may make you think twice about purchasing) is the current cost, which varies depending on where you look.
So to close, here is where you can currently purchase one. If you’re in the US, the Necomimi originally first went on sale online last month at Club Nico for $199 (about £126). However, they are now available at their official site, necomimi.com, at a much more affordable $99.95 (about £63), though they do state that, “quantities are limited.” For anywhere else, Japan Trend Shop has the Necomimi on sale for $200 and will ship worldwide.