First off, let me say I've always wanted to make things move with my mind--at least, some small amount of levitation, like, say, lifting a car through the air like Yoda lifted Luke Skywalker's X-Wing. "Star Wars" has played no small part in that fantasy. Oh, wait, did I say fantasy?
Mattel is releasing a toy this holiday that actually lets people raise and lower things with their mind. Well, make that one thing: a blue foam ball.
Obviously, when Mattel reps called CNET asking for a meeting, we quickly ushered them in. We'd heard about this product at CES and in other applications in the past, including the Swedish Mindball (no, we're not making that up). But Mattel's desire to bring this to the masses is admirable, and as we were soon to find out, bizarre. Look above to see the somewhat embarrassing video if you have any doubts.
Like something dropped in out of a late-'70s science fiction movie, Mindflex comes in two parts: a stark white-and-blue plastic obstacle course for a series of small foam balls, and a strange wireless headset/headband. The parts were unloaded from a shopping bag here at our CNET Labs, and quickly assembled. The obstacle course looks almost like a future version of the old kinetic board game, Mouse Trap. Except, as we said, this one's mind-controlled.
Mattel's representatives showed how Mindflex worked with a demonstration before throwing me into amateur mind control, raising and lowering the blue ball through a series of plastic hoops and tunnels.
Mindflex announces the start of challenges (with a straight-from-Epcot robotic female voice), and then players can register their successful moves by pressing buttons on the front of the machine. A large knob turns the motorized fan around the circular track, carrying the ball around the mini-course.
The brain control part comes in when raising and lowering the ball (activating and deactivating the fan), which is all triggered via what the headset is reading from my little brain. To be specific, the control is done digitally: the headband senses concentration and relaxation, and raises and lowers the ball accordingly. Then, it was my turn. … Read more