Mind-Controlled Video Games

May 30th, 2012 by Kel Smith | Filed under Cognitive, Gaming, Innovation, Uncategorized, Video Games, Virtual Reality

Headset placed on user to control a video game via thoughts

Headset placed on user to control a video game via thoughts. With NeuroSky's headset, people can manipulate digital objects on a screen. Photo by Brian L. Frank for The Wall Street Journal.

Timothy Hay of the Wall Street Journal yesterday released a great piece on the emerging prevalence of mind-controlled video games. New technologies from such companies as NeuroSky are allowing users to control elements on a screen solely via thought control, making science fiction an affordable reality.

The headsets work by translating brain waves into digital information that can be captured and transmitted. Some of these adaptive technologies have been presented as part of the Royal College of Art and Imperial College program for the London Paralympic Games, as a way to make these events more inclusive for people with disabilities. What is also of interest to this space is the potential application to such health-related contexts as manual disability, mental wellness and post-traumatic stress disorders:

“The technology has implications in behavior modification. Two prisons in England, for example, show inmates a gangster-themed film from MyndPlay that teaches them to stay calm during threatening situations … psychiatrists have long trained the brain’s pre-frontal cortex to fight against acute conditions like anxiety, post-traumatic stress and attention-deficit disorder. What if a person could derive the same kind of benefit from a mind-controlled videogame?”

Illustration of an ECoG (electrocorticographic) implant.

Illustration of an ECoG (electrocorticographic) implant by Tom Giesler of the New York Times.

Neurologists already make use of electroencephalograph (EEG) technology, which helps to diagnose epilepsy by studying the brain’s electrical impulses. In fact, the New York Times reported in 2011 on ECoG (electrocorticographic) implants that help patients with brain disorders control game interfaces, solely by using their minds.

It’s exciting (and a little scary) to think that we may be seeing a whole new way of interacting with computers — one that doesn’t involve a keyboard or mouse, or waving your arms about in front of a lens, or pointing a laser stick at a wall. This could be a tremendous asset for people with physiological barriers, not to mention the therapeutic benefits of helping those in need of alternative stimuli to get through the day.

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