Mind control: The future of gaming?

emotiv.jpgProject Epoc is an electroencephalograph cap which goes on sale to video game manufacturers and software developers tomorrow. The device, developed by San Francisco-based video game company Emotiv Systems, will be demonstrated at the Game Developer’s Conference next week.

At Emotiv, we believe that future communication between man and machine will not only be limited to the conscious commun- ication that exists today, but non-conscious communication will play a significant part. Our mission is to create the ultimate interface for the next-generation of man-machine interaction, by evolving the interaction between human beings and electronic devices beyond the limits of conscious interface. Emotiv is creating technologies that allow machines to take both conscious and non-conscious inputs directly from your mind. Applications for the Emotiv technology can span numerous industries, however, our immediate target market is entertainment, with a focus on the electronic games industry.

The device is worn on the head so that the red circles, each of which contains an array of sensors, come into contact with the scalp. These sensors detect the electrical activity in the underlying brain region and transmit them wirelessly to a computer or game console.

Project Epoc is designed to perform a number of different functions. The cap comes with three software applications:

The Expressiv™ suite uses the signals measured by the headset to interpret player facial expressions in real-time. It provides a natural enhancement to game interaction by allowing game characters to come to life. When a player smiles, their character can mimic the expression even before they are aware of their own feelings. Artificial intelligence can now respond to players naturally, in ways only humans have been able to until now. The Affectiv™ suite monitors player emotional states in real-time. It provides an extra dimension in game interaction by allowing the game to respond to players’ emotions. Characters can transform in response to the player’s feeling – the experience of playing “The Incredible Hulk” will never be the same. The Affectiv suite can be used to monitor player state of mind and allow developers to tailor difficulty to suit each situation. The Cognitiv™ suite reads and interprets players’ conscious thoughts and intent. Gamers can manipulate virtual objects using only the power of their thought! For the first time, the fantasy of magic and supernatural power can be experienced.

The patent on Project Epoc is still pending, so Emotiv Systems provide little details about the device. Presumably, it is activity in the premotor and motor cortices, which could otherwise be used to control a joystick, that is correlated to a gamer’s intentions to move an on-screen object. In the last few decades, research performed mainly on monkeys has enabled neuroscientists to gain a good understanding of how cortical activity correlates with intentions to generate movements. Such work, together with advances in engineering, that enabled John Donahue and his colleagues at Brown University to develop the BrainGate system, which was implanted into the brain of quadriplegic Matthew Nagel, enabling him to control the movements of a prosthetic limb.

Other groups have used these findings to develop brain-machine interfaces (BCIs) that can perform other functions. For example, a team of Spanish researchers recently demonstrated a BCI-controlled wheelchair, and last year, surgeons at Washington University in St. Louis used a device called BCI2000 to determine to locus of abnormal activity in the brain of a 14-year-old epileptic. The BCI had to remain connected to the patient until he had a seizure, so the surgeons made it compatible with an Atari so that he could amuse himself by playing Space Invaders while waiting; the patient controlled the on-screen activity using only his thoughts. Also, devices similar to Project Epoc have been developed by S.M.A.R.T. BrainGames. This is a company based in San Marcos, California, which sells EEG caps and video games designed for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The idea behind these devices is that the symptoms of ADHD can be alleviated when one’s mental activities are focused on controlling a computer game character.

The claim that Project Epoc “reads and interprets players’ conscious thoughts” should be treated with some skepticism. Although the physiological aspects of emotional states are well known, the neural correlates of emotions are poorly understood. But, with advances in sensor technology and in the ability of researchers to analyse the neural correlates of cognitive functions, the claims could perhaps be realized. So far, video games manufacturers have shown no interest in it. Nevertheless, Emotiv Systems plans to make the device available to consumers some time next year.


12 thoughts on “Mind control: The future of gaming?

  1. Hi MC.
    I am Javier, the founder of Trendirama.com, the fastest growing community of amateur writers writing about The Future of everything. We would like to invite you to join us and write an article on the website, perhaps “The future of mind gaming?” or whatever you are passionate about…
    It is up to you, you choose the subject.
    You would get a link back when you link to your own article, if you wish.
    You can even re-use some of what you have here, in the last part of the article, “your view and comments”. That would save you time and still be interesting for readers.
    And yes, I know you may not have the time. Theoretically, none of us do…;)

    Failing that, if you like the project and you can help us spread the word -even if you don’t write- it would be great.
    Since we are starting, any help is appreciated.

    By making this valuable information available online for free, I truly believe we are helping to make the world a better place.
    And you could do your bit for the world too, by sharing what you know, as we already do.

    Please let us know if you link or mention us, so we can link you back too if you wish.
    You can even use our valuable articles on your websites, provided that you link back. Any better offer than that?! 🙂

    Look forward to hearing from you or reading your interesting article at Trendirama!

    Best regards
    Javier Marti

  2. The design is pretty impressive. I guess players will need to train themselves as to which of all potential emotions and thoughts are understood by the device.

    Btw, I can imagine a college party in the near future where everyone wears such a helmet (as both emiter and receiver) and is happy to make the mating process way more efficient…

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  7. When can i buy this, where, and how much? i just watched a video on this and it looked sweet. and is the game that allows you to move objects and sutch going to be for sale as well?

  8. Pingback: “Project Epoc” non-invasive ‘brain cap’ gaming device « Ignorance Is Futile!

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