Thursday, October 9, 2008

New Video Game Literally a Mind Game

MAKUHARI, Japan (AFP) - Willpower is set to replace fast fingers in a new video game in which players move characters through a headset that monitors their brain waves.

California-based NeuroSky Inc. showed off the new headset -- named Mindset -- at the Tokyo Game Show, the industry's biggest exhibition which opened near the Japanese capital Thursday. The Mindset monitors whether the player is focused or relaxed and accordingly moves the character on a personal computer. "We brought this to the game show as a new interface, a new platform for game creators," NeuroSky managing director Kikuo Ito told AFP. Children's games using the system will hit the US market next year, Ito said.

"We are exploring the use of brain waves in the game industry because games are fun and so close to people," he said. "Once people get used to the idea of using brain waves for various applications, I hope we will see various products using this technology," he said. In distance learning courses, for example, teachers could monitor whether students were attentive, Ito said.

Train drivers and motorists could use it to judge their stress levels and alertness, Ito added. Japan's Keio University put similar technology to use this year to let a paralysed man take a virtual stroll on the popular Second Life website, with the machine reading what he wanted to do with his immobile legs.

NeuroSky said the Mindset could help people with other types of disabilities. "For people with difficulty speaking, this can be a tool for communication," Ito said. Ito was hopeful that the technology would eventually go on sale outside the United States. Prices have not been announced.

It will be interesting to see how this new technology can affect special education and education in general. J.T.

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