Next-gen vidgame gear reads minds

NeuroSky, Emotiv tap into players' brain waves

Gamers and the people who design for them are after one thing above all: immersiveness. Everyone wants the most consuming, complete experience possible.

Two companies, NeuroSky and Emotiv Systems, believe the best way to shrink the distance between the player and the console is by using the gamers’ own brain waves.

NeuroSky’s MindSet headset translates brain-wave (EEG) signals for gaming and other applications. The company is after ease of use so that a broad audience, from rabid enthusiasts to casual players, would be interested in using their headset. “Ideally you feel comfortable using our headset at home, at a friend’s house or at Starbucks,” says NeuroSky marketing veep Greg Hyver, who believes this technology could become as common in daily use as the cell phone.

“It gives game developers a lot more to play with. But it also means that they’ll have to expand how they think of the gaming environment to make full use of what we’re offering,” Hyver says. “We’re really at the beginning of seeing how this technology will be used, and when you change the game, everyone has to raise their game to keep playing.”

In addition to using brain waves, Emotiv’s technology — which premiered at this year’s Game Developers Conference — also analyzes and incorporates the player’s facial expressions to determine how an avatar will react to them inside a virtual world. The neuroheadset continually adjusts gameplay in real time.

“This type of technology is appealing for both traditional and more casual, nontraditional gaming communities because it takes down a series of barriers to participating in games and makes it possible for anyone to put on a headset and play,” says Tan Le, Emotiv’s president and co-founder. “And it’s going to fall to developers to really incorporate this, because once people try it, they’ll want to interact with a game in this way.” Emotiv’s EPOC headset will be available later this year and will be bundled with a specially developed game, but will still be compatible with existing titles.

Le believes the technology produces a more organic, uncomplicated experience.

Currently, “You’re constantly having to learn a series of commands each time you migrate from one game to another,” Le says. “So by being able to naturally express yourself by smiling or winking and control your gaming experience, that way, you no longer have to learn a whole new series of commands.”

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