It’s mind over machine: a US high-tech company has created a headset allowing computer game lovers to use their thoughts to move mountains and make objects disappear on screen.
Emotiv, a San Francisco-based startup that marries neuroscience and computer engineering, says its EPOC gaming headset offers only a glimpse of what the technology has to offer.
“There is no natural barrier from what we can see,” Emotiv co-founder Tan Le told AFP while demonstrating the headset in the firm’s office.
“This is the tip of the iceberg for what is possible for us. There will be a convergence of gesture-based technology and the brain as a new interface — the Holy Grail is the mind.”
Gamers will be able to get their hands on the gadget in time for the winter holiday season, the company says.
The EPOC headset features 16 sensors that press against a user’s scalp to measure electrical activity in a brain using electroencephalography. A built-in gyro tracks head movement.
The sensors also register users’ moods and facial expressions, merging the data in computer software that “learns” to match readings with what people are thinking, according to Le.
“There is a direct correlation between thought and what happens on screen,” Le said. “It really fulfills this long fantasy people have had of moving objects just with thought.”
A videogame will be included with the headset when the package goes on sale for 299 dollars at the Emotiv website and select shops.
The martial arts fantasy game has a rural Asian setting. An animated “master” leads players through exercises that include lifting mountains with their minds.
A test of the headset showed that after “training” the EPOC system for less than a minute one could spin, push, pull and lift objects onscreen, or make them vanish, by simply thinking about it.
“Gamers are early adopters of technology and thought control is the ultimate fantasy of gamers,” Le said.
Emotiv has a software development kit available to videogame makers as well as programmers of “anything that involves a human and a computer” including those involved in virtual worlds, cars and medical care.
The technology could be used to let virtual world characters referred to as “avatars” reflect the real-world expressions and moods of the people they represent online, according to Emotiv engineer Marco Della Torre.
The kit for third-party software savants to weave thought-control into programs has reportedly been downloaded from the Emotiv website more than 1,000 times.
“We have a lot of Fortune 500 companies interested,” Le said.
Even law enforcement agencies have expressed interest in the headset’s ability to read people’s minds.
“It certainly could be used as a very accurate polygraph,” Le said. “If you have seen something before, there is no hiding it. There is brain recognition.”
Medical applications could include giving stroke victims or people in comas new ways to communicate.
People wearing headsets while listening to online music could have tunes automatically tagged based on whether they made them happy, sad, excited, or bored.
Le, an Australian telecommunications entrepreneur named Young Australian of the Year in 1998, said the idea for the headset sprang from a chat about brains and technology during dinner in 2003.
Le and fellow entrepreneur Nam Do founded Emotiv with neuroscientist Allan Snyder and computer chip designer Neil Weste.
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