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Brain Scanners (1)

By Mar.03, 2013

mauro1

So Albino Mosquito have the first brain scanner. This is the one they’re using:

This EEG brainwave scanner from Neurosky comes with tons of functionality straight out of the box. The software included applications that could tell you how hard you were concentrating, or how meditative you were and there were a variety of mini games and apps (like a brain visualiser) that all offered different experiences with the hardware.

Although the programs are simple, it’s the interface that is most exciting, along with the novel interaction that it brings. As far as I can tell, the Mindwave offers the following inputs:

Concentration

The Mindwave can measure the amount of Beta Waves your brain is generating and Beta Waves are apparently often associated with concentration and attention. An onscreen meter shows how concentrated you are and the software offers the following advice for ‘driving focus’:

– Identify and maintain a single thought

– Stare at a specific subject

– Calculate math

– Sing a song silently

– Imagine the action that you are trying to accomplish (like the meter rising)

Calmness

The Mindwave can also measure the amount of Alpha Waves your brain generates and these waves are associated with calmness and meditation. Tips for ‘driving meditation’ include:

– Take a deep breath and slowly exhale

– Deliberately relax all muscles 

– Clear mind of specific thoughts when they enter

– Let your mind wander and drift

– Close your eyes

Blinking

Amazingly, the Mindwave can also measure when you deliberately try to blink. Please don’t ask me how. It’s magic.

Although I enjoyed the thrill of using my power of concentration (quite literally) to set fire to and then explode a virtual wooden barrel, the application that caught our attention most was Zombie Pop.

Mindwave Mobile Zombie Pop game

As the video from earlier shows, Zombie Pop is essentially a simple ’90’s style’ game. Look for the zombies with something in their heads on the X-Ray machine, use your power of concentration to focus in on the desired target, focus more to blow up it’s head and then blink – just at the right moment – to explode the zombie’s brains. Of course it’s the interface where the novelty lies though and we all seemed to think that it was actually quite fun.

One interesting observation is the way in which the game mechanics are actually woven together with the emotional state of the player. Don’t get me wrong, Zombie Pop is not going to scare the crap out of you or make you weep like a baby (see The Walking Dead: The Game for that) but it does remove the physical interface we are accustomed to when utilising ‘special powers’ in a video game. This is to say that in order to use your ‘focus ability’ you don’t need to press a coloured button on a joypad as it is actually your ‘special’ ability. The game asks you to focus and you actually focus – your intent isn’t communicated through a third party, such as a joypad, keyboard or mouse.This means that when you want to ‘let a zombie go’ because the X-Ray shows that he is clear, you simply ‘feel’ that sensation of disinterest and your mind wanders, probably decreasing the level of Beta Waves you are generating and signalling to the programme that you don’t want to blow up that particular zombie’s head. Similarly, when you do have a target, your sense of intent increases as the increasing Beta Waves signal to the software your desire to focus in on that particular zombie.

rich & maria

Rich attaching the small metal clip to Maria’s ear. Apparently this helps to dampen the signal of other electrical activity in the body (muscles, etc) – allowing the Mindwave to focus on the brain.

It was surprising how involving this simple 2D ’90’s style game’ was and it is clearly due to the personal nature of the interface. We were left thinking that if this is the experience for a simple zombie game like this, what other, richer, experiences might we be able to create using this sort of technology? What if a player/audience member could have a piece of work respond to their emotional state in someway? What if actions for participants could be tied to their emotional state?

So there are a range of experiments that we could do. I guess the next thing to do will be to hack the device and get usable information from it into a computer. Maria is about to start working on this and essentially she’ll be able to turn the brainwaves that the device reads into Open Sound Control information that she can then programme into a variety of applications and functions. Once we know what’s possible we can begin to try some experiments out and we will definitely need some play testers to try this stuff out – so watch this space!

More soon.

 

 

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