Background

Psychologists, neuroscientists and vision researchers regularly make use of computer-based experiments. Most assume that the computer accurately presents stimulus materials and records responses as programmed with millisecond accuracy. However testing has shown this expectation is often misplaced. Presentation, synchronization and response timing errors can be caused by many factors. Whether you make use of a commercial experiment generator or write custom software, you are likely to succumb to such errors. Inconsistent timing can lead to spurious conditional effects, poor replicability and bad science.

The BBTK v2 hardware and software is used in labs across the world and encompasses Cognitive Psychology, Neuroscience, Language and Vision research among others. It is the gold standard for assessing millisecond timing accuracy and self-validation. Be sure of your research results prior to publication.

The Black Box ToolKit v2™ key features


Typically the BBTK v2 operates as a virtual human programmed to respond to stimulus presentations and generate appropriate responses very accurately. It can step through your whole experiment as if it was a human participant. External sensors are hooked up to a second PC, Mac or Linux box to detect stimulus presentations and a generation interface is used to feed a response into the paradigm under test. The BBTK v2 measures the timing of all stimulus, synchronization and response events extremely accurately, allowing you to compare timing measured by your own equipment with the actual real world timings. The BBTK v2 can also work with up to 20 I/O TTL lines/TTL triggers when used in fMRI studies, for EEG or eye tracking. Show me a worked example.

      1. Set-up – Hook up external stimulus sensors (opto-detectors, mics, TTL) and a response device (response pad, robotic key actuator, sounder, TTL)
      2. Test – Use a wizard to select a stimulus pattern to automatically respond to/event mark. Then choose the exact reaction time, response device and duration
      3. Analyze – Check your stimulus, response and synchronization timings across up to 36 channels. Compare what your experiment recorded with what the BBTK saw

The BBTK v2 also lets you tune your experiment generators accuracy in a particular study by automatically simulating a human participant that is millisecond accurate. This enables you to modify onsets, delays and RTs so that they are accurate in the real world. Remember the BBTK v2 is a dedicated self-contained hardware device that is designed to record stimulus onsets and reaction times in the real world as they occur with sub-millisecond accuracy. Simple to use with a range of external sensors.

Just some of the causes of replication failure in computer-based psychology experiments are shown in the diagram below.



Idealized experiment shown top, what may happen on your own equipment bottom (click to enlarge)

Key features

  • Up to 4x opto-detectors for checking visual stimulus onsets and durations
  • Up to 2x mics for checking sound onsets and durations
  • Up to 2x sounders for triggering your own voice keys or mics
  • 4x Active Switch Closures for closing keys or buttons on your equipment
  • 2x TTL in channels/lines (TTL triggers)
  • 2x TTL out channels/lines (TTL triggers)
  • 25-way breakout board
  • Up to 16x additional TTL I/O channels/lines with TTL expansion module/breakout board (TTL triggers)
  • Option for 1x Robotic Key Actuator to press keys or tablet screens, e.g. laptop keyboards, iPhones, iPads etc.
  • 1-8 button response pad input port
  • API & SDK guide. Printed documentation detailing our software API which allows you to control the BBTK v2 from your own applications and decode timing data
  • Optional high quality aluminum carrying case

Front connectors

Front connectors and indicator LEDs
  • Up to 4x opto-detectors for checking visual stimulus onsets and durations
  • Up to 2x mics for checking sound onsets and durations
  • Up to 2x sounders for triggering your own voice keys or mics
Rear indicator LEDs
  • 2x TTL in channels/lines (TTL triggers)
  • 2x TTL out channels/lines (TTL triggers)
  • 4x primary buttons of the BBTK USB response pad
  • 4x Active Switch Closures for closing keys or buttons on your equipment

Rear connectors

  • Expansion Port – 16x additional TTL I/O channels/lines with TTL expansion module/breakout board (TTL triggers)
  • TTL/ASC – 25-way breakout board for TTL/TTL triggers and Active Switch Closure lines. Also includes 4 additional +5 V/grounds
  • Response Pad – 1-8 button response pad input port (with or without voice key)
  • USB Host – Connection to the PC controlling the BBTK v2
  • Power 5V DC 250 mA – Power supply for the BBTK v2

Sensors, modules & optional extras

High quality aluminum carrying case

Protects your BBTK and additional modules from accidental damage.
We strongly recommend you consider purchasing the aluminum carrying case shown to help protect the toolkit and additional modules.


Black Box Toolkit USB Response Pad

Simply plug in to a USB port on your PC/Mac/Linux system and our response box will appear as a second keyboard. Press a button and a standard keystroke will be sent to your experiment. No need for drivers, no need to recode! Works out of the box with E-Prime, SuperLab, Presentation, Inquisit, PsychoPy or any other software that can accept standard keyboard responses. Outputs simultaneously sent to the BBTK v2 for real time monitoring.


Black Box Toolkit USB Response Pad with Voice Key

All the great features of our standard USB Response Pad but with an integrated voice key. If your participants make a vocal response this also produces a standard key press and TTL event mark/TTL trigger! Simple to use and simple to setup with tunable vocal activation threshold. It's your choice whether to use it as a standard response pad or use it as a voice key. Supplied complete with headset. Outputs simultaneously sent to the BBTK v2 for real time monitoring.


16 Channel TTL Breakout Board

Breakout board with separate signal processor/CPU provides an additional 16 high speed multipurpose TTL lines (8 input/8 output). Ideal for TTL event marking/TTL triggering, synchronization or TTL based response devices.


Robotic Response Key Actuator

Press keys on your own response devices, e.g. laptop keys, response pads etc. with our robotic finger. Unobtrusive and noninvasive.

Can also be used to make responses on devices with either resistive or capacitive touch screens, e.g. Android tablets, iPads, iPhones or other touch screen devices etc.


API & SDK guide

Printed documentation detailing our software API which allows you to control the BBTK v2 from your own applications and decode timing data. The BBTK v2 is controlled via a virtual serial COM port over a USB connection using simple four letter commands.


BBTK digital microphone

Up to two can be used simultaneously for monitoring for auditory stimulus (adjustable trigger threshold).

Note: BBTK version 1 microphones, sounders, opto-detectors, external opto-detector modules and response pad should not be used with the new version 2.


BBTK digital sounder

Up to two can be used simultaneously for triggering remote voice keys (adjustable for amplitude/volume).

Note: BBTK version 1 microphones, sounders, opto-detectors, external opto-detector modules and response pad should not be used with the new version 2.


Replacement 25-way ASC/TTL breakout board

Allows for up to 2 TTL out, 2 TTL in and 4 ASC connections to your own equipment. Also includes 4 additional +5 V and 8 grounds.


Replacement opto-detector sensor and cable

Up to four opto-detector sensors can be used with the BBTK v2 to monitor for the appearance of a visual stimulus.

Note: BBTK version 1 microphones, sounders, opto-detectors, external opto-detector modules and response pad should not be used with the new version 2.


Replacement USB host lead

Used for connecting the base kit to the Host PC.


Replacement 25-way ASC/TTL breakout board lead

Used for connecting the breakout board to the rear of the BBTK.


Replacement Switch Mode PSU (suitable for international use)

Grounded PSU used for powering the BBTK.

Technical specifications

  • RFI coated ABS plastic or metal enclosure (300mm x 200mm x 100mm LWH)
  • NXP LPC1768 running at 96 MHz
  • ARM Cortex-M3 32 bit processor (ARMv7-M architecture)
  • 3.3 Vdc Abracon Corporation CMOS SMD Crystal Clock Oscillator
  • Internal timestamps stored with μS precision (accuracy to millionths of a second)
  • 64 MBit internal memory (8MB RAM) for storing samples (max 262,144 line changes)
  • Line change detection and time stamping (only stores changes, e.g. a bitmap on an opto-detector is 2 line changes regardless of duration. That is, on and off)
  • 2 MB flash drive (BBTK appears as a drive letter under Windows/OS X for easy firmware updates - copy a single firmware file across and reset. No need to flash firmware!)
  • LCD status screen (20x4 lines)
  • Rotary encoder for setting sensor activation thresholds - turn and press to confirm (all thresholds stored and recalled digitally)
  • USB connection to host PC for sequence programming and uploading and analysis of timing data
  • Once programmed fully autonomous and unaffected by anything you do on the host PC
  • Can be used with low powered netbooks
  • Fully documented API for controlling the BBTK from your own software (uses serial commands over USB virtual COM port)
  • Powered by 5V Switch Mode PSU (suitable for worldwide use)
  • Each of the 20 standard lines has it's own activity LED on the front panel
  • Opto and Mic smoothing built-in and controllable via GUI (block CRT refreshes together for ease of analysis)
  • Up to 36 input and output lines across a range of sensors (Elite model)
    • 4x opto-detectors (front panel)
    • 2x TTL input lines/TTL triggers (uses breakout board via 25-way D on rear)
    • 2x TTL output lines/TTL triggers (uses breakout board via 25-way D on rear)
    • 4x Active Switch Closures using Solid State Relays (uses breakout board via 25-way D on rear)
    • 2x BBTK digital microphones (front panel)
    • 2x BBTK digital sounders (front panel)
    • 4 key BBTK response pad connector (9-way D on rear)
    • 16 additional TTL input/output lines/TTL triggers

Unless otherwise labelled, all products offered for sale by The Black Box ToolKit Ltd are for academic study and/or research use only.

About company


The Black Box Toolkit Ltd was founded in 2003 by a team of psychologists, software experts and electronic engineers.


Dedicated to improving the millisecond timing accuracy and experimental rigor of researchers in the behavioral and brain sciences.

We provide hardware, software and consultancy solutions across a wide range of fields to make this a reality. Print flyer

Get in Touch

  • Phone:
    +44 (0)114 3030056
  • Email:
    info@blackboxtoolkit.com
  • Address:
    The Black Box ToolKit Ltd,
    PO Box 3802, Sheffield,
    S25 9AG, UK