You’ve probably seen segments on programs like 60 Minutes that feature a disabled person with a bunch of electrodes attached to their head and shows how they can control a computer screen just by thinking about a letter of the alphabet or something like that. You might have even heard about using mind control for virtual reality gaming.
A company called Neurable (sounds like something out of a William Gibson novel) has created a game called Awakening where players can move and aﬀect objects in a virtual environment just by concentrating on them. It works via a brain-scanning headband and related software that read and interpret EEG signals from the brain to control the gaming elements. The headband is compatible with existing VR headsets like the HTC Vive.
Neurable will be introducing Awakening in VR arcades throughout the world this year. While there are currently only a handful of these arcades in the U.S. and Europe, they’re already wildly popular in China and parts of East Asia.
There’s no doubt VR arcades will proliferate. I was impressed by both the size and scope of the Virtual Reality installation at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, which I happened upon during CES 2018. And there’s already a VR arcade called Virtual Realms near where I live on Long Island. (Lay that waiver and release form on me!)
While mind-control games are just beginning to appear in arcades, it’s a sure bet they’ll soon enough become as commonplace at home as your TV’s remote control. Neurable isn’t alone. Other companies like Looxid Labs (which exhibited at CES 2018), Qneuro, and InteraXon are working on or have already demonstrated some type of brain/computer interface (or “BCI”). And games like Throw Trucks With Your Mind (I’d love to try that one!) have been shown at events like the Experiential Technology Conference & Expo in San Francisco.
Heck, there’s already at least one discontinued BCI game—Mindflex, produced by Mattel from 2009 to 2011, which purported to sense brain activity to control objects. (There was some question as to whether the headset actually measured brain activity or something like muscle activity instead.)
True, the current mind-control games only let you do simple things like push numbers on a keypad, and it will probably take more advanced technology like brain implants to give you more control. But I’m confident BCI headsets will improve.
And here’s another wrinkle in mind: Consumer Reports says future games could change content based on a user’s mood. Imagine the possibilities: A game that could sense whether you wanted an apocalyptic zombie shootout after a bad day at work or a relaxing session of mind-control Tetris.
Frank Doris is the chief cook & bottle washer for Frank Doris/Public Relations and works with a
number of audio & music industry clients. He’s a professional guitarist and a vinyl enthusiast with
multiple turntables and thousands of records.