Can technology really harness the power of our brains and use it to control video games? I gave the latest brain wave sensor technology a spin and found it hit and miss at reading my thoughts.
I recently tried out a headset that read my brainwaves at the Gadget Show Live.
It was quite daunting at first, and I felt like I was about to be subjected to some kind of electric shock treatment like Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but I quickly settled.
How brain wave sensors work
By either focussing my thoughts, or by relaxing my mind, I was able to control what I saw on the screen – at least that was the premise. The reality, it seems, was that I have very little control over my mind.
First up I had a go at an archery game. If I could concentrate hard enough when prompted, I should have been able to hit the bull’s-eye – but alas my shots went wildly awry. I was much better when it came to the turn when I had to relax, and found my relaxation levels jumped whenever I laughed causing my arrows to be a little more on target.
If you’re finding it hard to visualise, watch the technology in action here:
It’s not just about games
This gaming application was only one of the ways that this technology is being used. There are other more serious applications, I was told, such as the treatment of ADHD and the detection of Alzheimer’s. I also received a demonstration of a ‘choose your own adventure’ style story that was played out through video.
For this last one, I watched a video that had been filmed through my point of view, so the characters addressed the camera to talk to me, making me feel as though I was part of the plot. Then, at certain times throughout the story, I had to either concentrate or relax to change the outcome of a particular scenario.
It was quite engrossing. I found myself in some kind of suburban gangster plot, where an aggressor took me by the scruff of my neck and threatened to hit me. At this point I was able to relax sufficiently enough for the aggressor to back down.
If I’d have panicked, the sensor on my head would have switched the video to a different ending in which I would have most likely been slapped across the chops.
The gangster storyline wasn’t exactly my cup of tea – nor was the horror alternative – but the ability to be able to choose my own narrative, still within the director’s scope, was appealing.
A new type of video entertainment?
I’m not sure how accurate the readings of my mind really were or whether I’d ever be able to master any meaningful control, but it was quite good fun. But I imagine that many will be put off by having to wear the Frankenstein’s monster style headset.
If the designers could make it look a little less sinister, then we may have a new type of video entertainment. My thoughts, if I read them correctly, are that it’s all still a long way off from offering any effective control.