Jedi Mind tricks games, mind control video games, mind control toys
Paul Sakuma/AP
A NeuroSky worker wears a Darth Vader outfit as he controls a light saber using his brain waves,
at NeuroSky headquarters in San Jose, Calif. (AP)

The Toy Industry Adopts Mind-Control Technology

January 09, 2009 03:44 PM
by Josh Katz
New toys that allow players to move objects with their minds point to the rise of brain-wave technology in the industry.

“Jedi Mind Tricks” Could Be Future of Toy Technology

Lucas Licensing is to release a new toy this fall called Force Trainer, which turns the Star Wars power of “The Force” into reality—sort of.

The toy, which is expected to cost $90-100, uses brain-wave technology to allow players to move a ball with their minds, according to USA Today. Players wear a wireless headset that reads brain activity almost like an EEG medical test, and users can manipulate a ping-pong-like ball within a 10-inch-tall chute.

“Until today, EEG technology has been designed for rigorous medical and clinical applications with little regard to price (and) ease of use,” says Greg Hyver of NeuroSky, which created the brain-wave technology for the games. “We are putting this exciting technology into everyone’s living room,” he told USA Today.

Mattel plans to unveil a mind-control game of its own in the fall. In the Mattel game, a player’s brain waves can “move a ball through a tabletop obstacle course.”

A San Francisco-based company is producing a video game based on a similar premise. Emotiv Systems released a $299 headset last year that lets users control their video-game characters with their thoughts.

“Featuring 16 sensors that measure electrical impulses from the brain, the headset—which plugs into the PC’s USB port—will enable games to register facial expressions, emotions and even cognitive thoughts, allowing players to perform in-game actions just by visualising them,” Australian paper The Sydney Morning Herald reported (the founders of Emotiv are Australian scientists). In addition, the company will add games so that if a player is feeling “angry, engaged, happy, stressed, etc.,” the game can “adjust difficulty levels, in-game music and the game environment accordingly.”

Although such technology may be new to the world of mainstream toys, technology that uses brain waves to control machines has been in existence for some time. “It all goes back to neurofeedback that has been around for 50 years, where you can record activity coming from the human brain through the scalp,” Melvyn Goodale, Canada Research Chair in Visual Neuroscience at the University of Western Ontario, told The Ottawa Citizen.

Related Topics: Military to use thought-based communication

The U.S. Army is investing in technology that could allow soldiers to communicate with each other simply through their thoughts.

The Army awarded a five-year, $4 million contract in August 2008 to scientists from the University of California at Irvine, Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Maryland to produce “thought helmets,” according to an article in Time magazine.

If such technology is successful, it will allow troops to communicate using only information from their brain waves. The goal is that the project will “lead to direct mental control of military systems by thought alone,” the Army claims.

In tests, subjects are to wear “special caps” that perform electroencephalography, or EEG, readings of the brain. The scientists then face the monumental task of translating the resulting “squiggles on the computer screen” into “messages a computer can type out or speak.” Such technology could be decades away, however, according to the American Forces Press Service.

The military is not expected to be the sole beneficiary of such technology. Schmeisser noted that the research is meant to be a stepping-stone to other advances. For example, communication through thought could become useful for those with neurological problems like Lou Gehrig’s Disease. “So this program is not focused on creating inventions,” he said. “It is focused on creating the basic science foundation from which inventions flow.”

Reference: Telekinesis; Toys guide


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